Authoritarian parenting style



What is the authoritarian parenting style?  And, what is the overall effect of the authoritarian style of parenting on children?

Definition: Authoritarian parenting is characterised by parents who tip the scale in regard to demanding-ness, and rate low on the scales when it comes to responsiveness/ supportiveness.

The authoritarian parenting style is a strict form of parenting where the children are expected to adhere to very strict rules. There is either little or no input from the child with regard to the rules. This form of parenting does not foster a relationship with the child which is based on communication, or give and take.

Another way to describe the authoritarian parent is as an ‘army officer.’ Army officer’s lack warmth, have a general lack of interest in developing emotionally intimate relationships, and dish out harsh punishments for breaking the rules.

Like the army officer, the authoritarian parent believes that they are the one in charge in their household.  The children know at a very young age that they must conform to the rules their parents have put in place – without question or exception. These parents tend to be overly critical of their children if their expectations aren’t met.

Like soldiers, the children often feel that their relationship with their parent is lacking in relation to emotional connection and affection.

Standards of behaviour are extremely high in these families, and complete obedience is high on the list of objectives.

The general consensus is that authoritarian parents rule with an iron fist. Their overall desire is to have complete psychological control over their children.

Consequences for breaking the rules: 

Forms of punishment such as smacking and yelling are used  with young children to ensure ‘complete obedience’.

The aim of punishing the  child is to gain complete psychological control. This is often achieved when the authoritarian parent shames their child, withdraws affection from their child, inflicts the silent treatment, or with – holds their love.

The problem with authoritarian parenting

There are many problems with authoritarian parenting. However, one of the major problems with authoritative parenting is that children brought up in these environments will most likely be affected in many areas of their life, well into adulthood.

The child/ parent relationship will most likely become greatly affected in the authoritarian environment when the child realises that their opinions and values are not respected by their parents.

Children in the authoritarian environment may also become overwhelmingly afraid of making mistakes – mainly through fear of hardline punishments.

This could lead to further problems in their adult life where intimate relationships are concerned, and may also create problems in the workplace. In these areas of their life, these adults (who were once under authoritarian reign) may resort to people pleasing and perfectionism. Or, they may simply live their adult life in fear of failure.

When we make a mistake in life, a consequence is the natural result of that mistake. When children are given consequences for their behaviour, they are given the opportunity to reflect upon their behaviour – and they are also encouraged to use their problem solving skills.

On the other hand, punishments can create resentment and anger, rather than the emotional space to reflect, which is naturally derived from being given consequences.

Anger and resentment can result for children who have grown up in authoritarian households – as well as rebellious behaviour, power struggles between parent and child, and a general dislike of people in positions of authority.

Issues which may result for children living in the authoritarian family environment:

  • Low self – esteem
  • Poor problem solving skills
  • Anger issues
  • Children may also struggle with emotional regulation, and find it difficult to manage their anger
  • A lack confidence, and the ability to solve problems and to think on their own




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