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Being an authoritative leader is far superior to any other leadership style

The leadership style we use in groups – whether in our families, at church, or in the workplace - directly affects how people respond.

Our leadership style may evoke cooperation and good morale, or it may make people hostile and wary. But there's good news for those of us who want to change. We can. We can become better parents, leaders, or managers.

We look primarily at how leadership styles affect families. But the same principles apply elsewhere.

Parenting is learned behavior. You learned it from your parents. That's the “tape” that plays in your head: that's what you naturally tend to do, even though you vowed you would never treat your children the way you were treated.

Worth the Effort

Change takes time and real effort. But the results of authoritative parenting are so far superior to the results of other styles that I believe the effort to change is worth the effort. How does it happen?

  • First, get a clear picture of what authoritative parents do in everyday life. An example of authoritative parenting is described by Jamie and his mother. Jamie wanted to play ball when he came home from school even though he had not yet done his home jobs for the day.

What did his mother do that made her an authoritative parent?

First, she and Jamie already had a clear understanding that he was supposed to do his home jobs before he played. Jamie recognized that agreement.

She did not berate her son and yell scorching denunciations of his character. (“You stupid kid! Can't you ever remember to do your chores!”) Instead she quietly reminded him that he had unfinished business at home.

When Jamie begged to be let off this one time, she remained firm. It would have been far easier to yield. But cultivating responsibility in Jamie's character was more important than his momentary happiness, so she stood her ground. No screaming, no reprimand, no censure. Just a pleasant, firm insistence on fulfilling his responsibilities.

Jamie's mother also respected his feelings. She recognized that he felt bad because he couldn't go play ball with his friends. But as tough as it seemed, he had to do his jobs. At the same time she encouraged her son - touched him gently and offered to help him finish. Last, she committed herself to playing ball with him before supper if he finished rapidly.

While Jamie might not have been happy, he did not feel his mother was unfair. She had demonstrated her consideration and love. She had given him the most valuable gift of all - her time.

Jamie's mother showed a strong amount of guidance and control of her son's behavior, while at the same time conveying a high level of support for him. This is what made her an authoritative parent.

Step by Step

As an authoritative parent:

1. Have well-thought-out standards for your child's behavior that encourage increasing maturity. Talk about these with your child.

2. Communicate confidence in your child's ability to grow.

3. Explain reasons for your requests and standards. Discuss these requirements with your child. Be flexible and respect your child's viewpoint, while remaining firm about the principle involved.

4. Listen to your child's feelings.

5. Treat your child as a partner in “growing up.”

6. Laugh, talk, and have fun with your child.

7. Take interest in your child's activities and personal interests.

8. Show your love often and unmistakably.

Also, study how God deals with us. As our heavenly Parent, God models authoritative parenting perfectly. Think about the requirements God sets out for us, and how God deals with us when we fail.

Be aware that your relationship with your own parents may have distorted your ideas about God. Review the many descriptions of God in the Bible. We can seek to copy God's ways.

  • Tell your children you are trying to change.

Explain that you have been studying how to be a parent and have learned that you need to do some things differently. Because God holds you accountable for the way you lead your family, you have decided to change. (Naturally, you will give a much simpler explanation for very young children. No explanation is needed for children under age 3.)

Your children will expect you to continue acting as you have in the past. They will test you to see if you are really changing.

Changes in a family system are upsetting. Things may get worse before they get better. But an authoritative leadership style will make your relationship with your children much much better. It's definitely worth the effort.

  • Each day review the parenting interactions you had with your children. What did you do to show support and caring? How did you have fun with your children?

Did you insist on appropriate behavior in a calm, reasonable, but firm way? Did you respect your children's feelings without giving in to their demands?

Write your evaluation of the day's parenting actions in a journal. Note specific situations that were difficult. If you prefer talking instead of writing, record your evaluation of the day on an audiotape.

It is very important to actually go through this evaluation of your day. Do it every day for several months. You will not change unless you take the time to evaluate what you are doing and think about what you will do the next day. Change doesn't come without thought.

Use key phrases to remind yourself during the day of the new way you want to act. Whenever you feel anger rising or helplessness taking over, say to yourself, “Stop. Think. What should I be doing now?” Pray for God's help. Take a deep breath and feel the calmness taking over. Remember, you are trying to ignore the tape, playing in your head, that you learned from your parents or teachers, and make a new tape of how to act as a parent.

Talk things over with your partner in parenting. If you both make a commitment to change, you can encourage each other. If you are a single parent, find a friend or counselor who is able to listen to your frustrations over this change process and encourage you to keep trying.

If the first few days seem terrible, don't give up! That's why you are trying to change. Teaching yourself new ways of acting takes time and concentrated effort.

  • Study parent education materials. Many excellent materials have been prepared to educate parents.

Child Guidance, by Ellen White, is a helpful book on the authoritative parenting style. God's Inspired Word will also point you in the right direction.

If possible, attend a parenting class or join a parent support group. Just as you attend classes to update your business skills, attend classes to update your parenting skills.

  • Pray daily for heavenly intelligence. Pray many times daily that God will entrust you the warmth and love your children require. Pray also for strength to teach your children with firmness combined with love. Pray for help to control your temper and frustration. Pray for ideas on how to deal with your children.

If any of you is insufficient in wisdom, seek from God, who offers to all abundantly and big-heartedly, and it will be given you.

Notice that God does not find fault with us for our failures. Instead, God stands ready to offer guidance and assistance in any situation - generously. What a God! With His divine help we can introduce our children to that God through our family leadership style.

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