Authoritative parenting and compassionate parenting are two distinct but complementary approaches to raising children that both prioritize emotional and developmental wellbeing.

Authoritative parenting is characterized by a balanced blend of warmth and discipline. Parents who adopt this style set clear boundaries and expectations for their children while also nurturing an affectionate and supportive relationship (Guarnotta, 2023).

Compassionate parenting, on the other hand, places a significant emphasis on empathy and collaborative communication. Parents who adopt this style prioritize their child’s emotional needs, actively listen to their feelings, and validate their experiences. They seek to create a protective and safe environment where their children feel understood and valued (Liang et al, 2020).

Both parenting styles can contribute to raising well-adjusted, emotionally resilient, and socially adept children. Combined, parents can provide a sturdy foundation built on connection and trust that creates a safe place for children to flourish, build confidence, and establish healthy habits.

Authoritative vs. Authoritarian Parenting Style

Not to be confused with authoritarian parenting, which is much more “my way or the highway,” authoritative parenting sets clear boundaries with consequences but also balances that with listening to your child’s perspective, feelings, and emotions.

Whereas authoritarian parenting leaves “little to no room for negotiations from the child, and the rules are not usually explained… [and] authoritarian parents are normally less nurturing and have high expectations with limited flexibility,” (Sanvictores 2022), parents who favor the authoritative approach encourage independence and autonomy in their children by offering guidance and reasoning behind rules, fostering open communication, and valuing their child’s opinions and concerns.

One key strength of authoritative parenting is its positive impact on a child’s development. Researchers Kuppens and Ceulemans found authoritative parenting “has consistently been associated with positive developmental outcomes in youth, such as psychosocial competence (e.g., maturation, resilience, optimism, self-reliance, social competence, self-esteem) and academic achievement” (2018). They also found that this parenting style led to better social skills and being more adept at problem-solving and decision-making, as they have been encouraged to think critically and responsibly.

This parenting style creates a nurturing environment where children feel safe expressing themselves and seeking guidance from their parents, ultimately laying a strong foundation for their emotional and intellectual growth. Overall, authoritative parenting promotes a healthy parent-child relationship and prepares children for a successful transition into adulthood.

Compassionate vs. Permissive Parenting

Compassionate parenting is rooted in love and understanding, which allows parents to connect deeply with their children’s emotional and psychological needs. It’s about recognizing that children are unique individuals with their own thoughts, feelings, and perspectives.

At the core of compassionate parenting is empathy. “Parents with strong empathy provide their children with a safe foundation from which children can explore their emotional experiences and seek comfort when experiencing emotional distress” (Liang et al, 2020). When parents practice active listening with their children without judgment or interruption, it sends a powerful message that their feelings are valid and important.

Part of compassionate parenting is consistent and fair discipline, unlike permissive parenting where rules are established but consequences for breaking those rules are rarely enforced. Dr. Steven Stonsy explains, “Those who receive little discipline tend to feel unloved, isolated, and unprotected. Many adolescents from low-discipline homes lie to their peers, making up limits that they attribute to neglectful parents.”

Compassionate parents aim to teach their children emotional intelligence, self-compassion, and empathy towards others, fostering strong bonds and a sense of security. This approach can lead to children who are more in touch with their emotions, better at managing stress, and capable of forming healthy relationships built on trust and understanding.

Showing Mutual Respect

Both parenting styles emphasize mutual respect. Respect lays the foundation for open communication, trust, and strong relationships. “Explaining your rules and expectations conveys respect and helps children understand your rationale,” (Guarnotta, 2023). When both parents and children demonstrate respect for each other, it promotes an environment where each party’s feelings, opinions, and boundaries are valued and acknowledged.

As a parent, modeling respect is the best way to teach your child how to reciprocate that respect. Parents who model respect for their children teach them an invaluable lesson in how to treat others with kindness and consideration. This modeling of respectful behavior helps children develop their own sense of empathy and understanding, which are essential for building positive relationships outside of the home.

Mutual respect creates a sense of harmony within the family, making it easier to navigate challenges and conflicts while maintaining a loving and supportive atmosphere. Ultimately, it is through mutual respect that parents and children can grow together, learning from one another and fostering life-long bonds.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries with children is a fundamental aspect of both parenting styles that promotes children’s emotional, social, and psychological development. These parents “encourage children’s independence but also set limits and boundaries. These rules are reasonable and in the best interest of the child,” (Guarnotta, 2023). By consistently enforcing these limits, parents create a safe and predictable environment for children to thrive

With the authoritative parenting style, conversations happen about “The Why” behind rules and boundaries. Compassionate parenting involves setting clear and reasonable boundaries while maintaining empathy. These boundaries are established to ensure the safety and well-being of the child, and they are communicated in a way that shows respect for the child’s autonomy and feelings.

Healthy boundaries also teach children valuable life skills, including self-discipline, responsibility, and respect for others. When parents communicate and enforce boundaries effectively, it helps children learn about consequences, both positive and negative.

Combined Parenting Styles

Children raised with compassion learn to cope with and regulate their emotions effectively because they have experienced empathy and support when facing difficult situations or feelings. Authoritative parenting helps children develop self-discipline, problem-solving skills, and a strong sense of self-esteem, as they feel secure in their parents’ love and guidance.

The outcomes of these two parenting styles are very similar. And together, compassionate and authoritative parenting is a single powerful approach that nurtures the emotional, psychological, and social well-being of children. It fosters empathy, resilience, and self-esteem, laying a strong foundation for their future success and happiness.