Love, Limits, and Latitude: Authoritative Parenting (pt. 1)

The information for this blog post comes from a two-part article by Craig H. Hart that was called “What Children Need from Parents” and was published in the journal of Marriage and Families in 2004.


“Child rearing is so individualistic. Every child is different and unique. What works with one may not work with another. I do not know who is wise enough to say what discipline is too harsh or what is too lenient except the parents of the children themselves, who love them most… Certainly the overarching and undergirding principle is that the discipline of children must be motivated more by love than by punishment.” -James E. Faust

There are many influences on a child’s development. There are even multiple influences that come from the family environment, including marital satisfaction of the parents, sibling relationships and parenting styles. Parents have been found to have a huge impact in children’s development in all domains, including social interactions outside the home. There are four broad types of parenting styles:

  • coercive/authoritarian,
  • permissive,
  • uninvolved, and
  • authoritative.

Authoritative parenting has been found to have the most adaptive outcomes for children.

There are three principles that encompass being an authoritative parent. All children at every age need “an emotional connection with parents (love), regulation (limits), and autonomy (latitude).” Parents must find a balance of these principles for their individual child’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Using these principles “create[s] a positive emotional climate that helps children be more open to parental input and direction.” It helps children better adjust to school, be less aggressive and delinquent, be less likely to use drugs, be more friendly and accepted by peers, and be more capable of moral reasoning and self-control. Here is how parents can better apply these three principles.

Love. Parents need to show love to their children. This builds a foundation for their relationship to grow on. Parents can show affection, praise what their children do well, read to them, and assure them of their love during moments of correction. Parents need to take the time to help their children with their homework, to support them by attending their sporting and musical events, and show an interest in their other activities. Of course, this is not always easy for parents to do as it takes energy, inspiration, dedication, and most of all, TIME!

Nevertheless, parents should guide their children by setting limits and providing correction when necessary; but ultimately, parents should also strive to develop a relationship of friendship with their children as one day children grow into adults. 

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