Differences in Authoritative, Authoritarian & Permissive Teachers

After guiding your child through the perils of walking, talking and potty training, the day has come to hand over the reins to someone else for a few hours each day. Your little one will likely cling to your leg in apprehension as he enters those preschool doors for the first time. Whether he continues to cling as the weeks pass or he begins to barrel ahead excitedly will depend almost entirely on the teaching style his first educator embraces.


When it comes to the preschool years, the relationship a teacher forms with her students is actually more important that what she is teaching, according to Peg Tyre, author of "The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve." Derived from the parenting styles described by Diana Baumrind in the mid-1960s, authoritative teachers make up that ideal mix of warmth and firmness required for effective teaching. These teachers offer support and encouragement while maintaining rules and explaining the reasons for those rules, explains Earlychildhood News, a professional resource for teachers and parents of preschool age children. Teachers who embrace the authoritative style maintain their classrooms with open communication and fairness, and give students the ability to make choices and to feel respected.


Authoritarian preschool teachers are those Tyre describes as constantly barking orders. Clinical psychologist Dr. Thomas Phelan explains that these teachers are the screamers, most likely avoiding positive reinforcement in favor of berating students who do not perform adequately. Others may perceive these teachers as callous, and their students are more likely to experience anxiety in their presence. Authoritarian preschool teachers may care deeply for the children in their care, but will rarely express that warmth, according to Earlychildhood News. As a result, their students are more likely to be withdrawn and lack enthusiasm for school.


Permissive teachers follow Baumrind's model by yearning to establish a strong bond with their students while struggling to set clear expectations. Teachers embracing this style often don’t know how to regain control of their classrooms when preschoolers begin acting out, leading to a chaotic, ineffective teaching environment. Preschoolers taught under this model are more likely to exhibit patterns of low-impulse control and low achievement, according to Earlychildhood News.


Possibly the least effective teaching style, detached teachers lack both the warmth and firmness necessary for teaching. These teachers are hands-off with their students and remain as uninvolved as possible. They do not set limits, nor do they attempt to earn their students respect through friendship. Phelan explains that students under this teaching style are more likely to withdraw because they feel unimportant, or they may exhibit aggressive behaviors in an effort to gain attention. In a preschool environment, this could lead to your child to act out or to want to avoid school entirely.