Love, Limits, and Latitude: Authoritative Parenting (pt. 2)

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. This is part two to the early post on this topic. Click here for Part 1. 


Limits. What constitutes an appropriate limit depends on the individual child’s disposition and maturity. Many of the family rules can be implicit; they don’t have to be directly stated because it is just what the family always does (wearing your seatbelt in the car or eating dinner as a family). Explicit limits are there to help children “distinguish between mountains and molehills-and [parents should] not make the number of rules overwhelming.” These rules should have logical consequences that are enforced. Reasons for the rules should be explained in advance; “this type of predisposing can ward off misbehavior in young children 60-70% of the time.” Teens should be allowed more autonomy and it is appropriate to work with them as a consultant to help them come up with their own solutions in many situations.

Latitude. Children want to be a part of the decisions that affect them. Allowing them to make decisions within the bounds you have set prepares them for making bigger decisions in the future. “Being willing to negotiate with children and compromise when flexibility is possible-and reasonable-gives them more control over their lives and prepares them for real-world negotiation and compromise.” Children who experience appropriate autonomy are “better at sharing power and understanding others’ viewpoints. They have fewer disputes with their parents and are more respectful of adults in general. They better manage their activities. And, in relationships with peers, they place more emphasis on persuasion and negotiation to get their way.”

Hart also advises on disciplining. He says, “Children learn to develop internal control (learning to make their own wise choices and controlling their own actions accordingly) as they learn to reason through the consequences of their actions, rather than simply being afraid to do something because they’re going to get yelled at or slapped by a parent (external control).” By choosing to reason with our children parents are helping them to be more social and pro-social by helping, sharing, and comforting others more. Children are more accepted by their peers and more likely to think about how their actions will impact others. It is also important to realize that if a child’s misbehavior is out of the ordinary, there may be more to the situation than meets the eye. Parents should take the time to see if there are any other factors that need to be addressed to make sure the disciplinary action taken is effective.

There is no perfect parent; we all make mistakes. Apologizing to our children does not weaken our roles as parents but it “tends to strengthen the relationship to learn how to work together-loving, forgiving and understanding each other.” Apologizing shows children that we are trying to do better just as we are asking them to make improvements. As we strive to do our best as parents, following the principles described above can help our children reach their divine potential.


For the full articles see:

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