It's all good to say that Authoritative Parenting is the best, but I think it's important to understand why.
Child behavior research looking into the outcomes associated with different parenting styles shows great benefit from this parenting style over the other styles. Why? Those children have more emotional self-control, more self-discipline, are more popular with their peers and do better at school.
It's interesting to note that the outcomes seem to be similar in very different cultures. A study - the first of its kind - by Eva Pomerantz (an Illinois professor of psychology) and graduate student Qian Wang studied the effects of parenting styles in China and the U.S. It showed that the effects of the parents' control and autonomy support in both China and the U.S. are similar in both cultures. It studied families of equivalent socio-economical backgrounds.
What is Authoritative Parenting?
This parenting style is also referred to as Democratic Parenting. It is characterized by parents' high expectations of compliance to their directions and rules, open dialogue about those rules and the child's behavior and generally a child-centered approach to parenting. The parents try to help their child to learn to be responsible for himself and to think about the consequences of his acts/behavior.
They do this is by providing clear and reasonable expectations and explanations on why they expect a certain behavior. They monitor their child's behavior to ensure that their rules are being followed through. It is done in a loving and warm manner. The emphasis is put on reinforcing the child's good behavior rather than emphasizing the bad.
Parents give selected choices according to the child's abilities. This is done to help the child to learn and experience the consequences of his own choices and it lets him know that his opinion counts. The choices will evolve with the age of the child of course. At toddler age, a choice between two things is usually enough, but a teenager might be just a tad bit frustrated by a choice of blue or black shoes ;)
Authoritative parents like to teach their children to behave by guiding their behavior rather than by punishing them. But don't think it means that those parents accept bad behavior, they are strict and demand obedience to their rules.
The other name of Democratic Parenting stems from the fact that the child is often given choices or his opinion is usually taken into account. It gives the child the impression that he is equal to his parents in value, even if he is not in life experience.
Why is Authoritative Parenting the best choice?
We have seen above that the outcomes are better for these children, but why?
Knowing that their opinion is taken into account, being listened to, having a choice, feeling likes equals... All this helps children have a high self-esteem thanks to the feeling that they have control and ownership in their lives. It also makes them more cooperative. Parents focus on discipline that explains the reasons the behavior is expected, rather than using intimidating methods. These methods send a positive message to the child that "we, parents, know that you are capable of dealing with this, we trust you".
Maybe it's simply because authoritative parents believe that both they and their child have certain rights and needs and that they are both equally important. It seems to be the perfect balance between Authoritarian Parenting and Permissive Parenting. Sometimes a parent needs to be obeyed regardless of the child's feeling, but sometimes it's important to give him a chance and allow him to make mistakes without intervention.