Authoritarian Parenting Style – Characteristics And Effects

Parenting styles have a huge impact on the behavior of a growing child. Research shows that parenting style could contribute to the association between behavioral inhibition and behavioral problems (1).

If you want to follow the authoritarian parenting pattern, it is important to have a clear understanding of it. MomJunction will take you through the characteristics, effects, and outcomes of strict parenting.

What Is Authoritarian Parenting?

Authoritarian or autocratic parenting is a style characterized by high demands from parents and low responsiveness. Parents expect high from children, leaving little room for feedback. Even if there is feedback, it is often negative. Such parents tend to take mistakes seriously. Yelling and corporal punishment is usually a part of this parenting style.

According to psychologist Diana Baumrind, authoritarian parents expect their children to follow strict rules unconditionally (2). She says, these parents “are obedience and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation.” This parenting style is the most controlling of all patterns.

Characteristics Of The Authoritarian Parenting Style:

Instead of teaching the value of self-control to children, an authoritarian parent focuses on the child’s adherence to authority. Such parent does not reward positive behavior but only provides feedback through punishments for misbehavior.

Here are some of the characteristics of the authoritarian or dictatorial parents:

1. Strict Rules And Expectations:

  • Authoritarian parents are strict, rigid, inflexible and impulsive in nature. They force their children to follow strict rules and regulations in routine life.
  • They never allow the child to question any of the laid regulations and expect them to adhere strictly to them without slightest modifications. They do not encourage verbal give-and-take.
  • In Authoritarian parenting, the mother and the father have the ultimate authority and they control their children in a strict manner.
  • Authoritarian parents think that they know what is best and right for their growing kids. They impose dictatorship rule and limit or ban some of the enjoyable things in their children’s life. They think
  • that such activities can distract kids from performing well in their academics.

2. Impose Punishment:

  • Authoritarian parents impose punishments on their children, whenever the child crosses the boundary and fails to follow the regulations.
  • When the child commits mistakes or fails to live up to the expectations, the parent punishes them harshly.
  • The Authoritarian parents do not attempt to explain the reasons for rules but simply punishes and fail to give any other options to minimize the conflict.

3. Not Responsive:

  • Parents are never responsive and only compel the child to follow the laid rules in daily life.
  • Parents never feel the need to give explanations to their children.
  • Even if their children are incredibly successful at school, they rarely congratulate or encourage them. Instead, they may indicate that much more is expected of them.
  • Such parents are simply obedience- and status-oriented.

4. Express Less Warmth:

  • Authoritarian parents are not emotional or expressive towards growing children.
  • They follow an abnormal nurturing pattern, which includes no intercommunication or emotional level bonding with the child.
  • Authoritarian parents do not bother about their children being emotionally hurt. They believe strict parenting process as a way to make kids tough and strong.
  • They tend to control kids through shaming and withdrawal of love.
  • They do not think about the child’s emotional and existential needs.

5. Don’t Give Choices Or Options to Children:

  • In Authoritarian parenting, the child is not given any secondary options and is treated as an inferior.
  • Even strict punishments are imposed without any option.
  • Parents expect high standards of behavior from kids, placing extreme value on obedience and expecting indisputable respect for authority.

Effects of Authoritarian Parenting:

Development experts agree to the fact that authoritarian parenting style makes the child obedient and well-behaved as he gets used to following specific rules and boundaries. But the long-term psychological damage outweighs the short-term behavioral gain of obedience.

The parenting pattern makes the relationship less satisfying to both the child and parent.

The child assumes that acceptance and love are dependent on good behavior as authoritarian parenting teaches conditional love.

Some of the common effects associated with authoritarian style of parenting are:

1. Existential Effects on Kids

Possess Poor Social Skills

  • Kids having strict parents may possess poor social skills and are incapable of socializing with friends.
  • These kids have a low level of confidence and cannot express feelings.
  • They are submissive to authority and leaders.

Lack Decision-Making Ability

  • As parents always tell children what needs to be done, they lack decision-making ability. They do not listen to their intuition.
  • Children in authoritarian parenting are often confused about what is right and what is not.
  • They develop a passive attitude toward their role in their life and do not take overall responsibility.

Children Not Creative

  • Children of authoritarian families are less creative as they do not attempt to do things in an innovative manner. They cannot explore or act independently in their life.
  • They develop the fear for punishment if things are not done as expected. The fear always restricts them from experimenting or doing something creative.

2. Mental Effects

Display Aggressive or Depressed or Inferior Behavior

  • Children from authoritarian families tend to exhibit aggressive behavior as they are compelled to perform tasks that they do not like to do.
  • They may get depressed and turn rebellious when they reach adolescence.
  • The consistent overruling makes the child feel that their decision or opinion does not matter, leading to low self-esteem and inferiority complex.

Fear Of Failure

  • Such children tend to suffer from a constant fear and pressure from parents compelling them to perform every activity accurately.
  • Parents insist that they succeed in every phase of their life. But tasting failure is important for kids to learn from mistakes, and perform well the next time.

Adopt A Dualistic Thought Pattern

  • The children become mentally rigid. They don’t understand that people have different shades.
  • They see people as either good or bad. They do not tolerate different opinions.

3. Emotional Effects on Kids

Prefer To Suppress Emotions

  • Kids having authoritarian parents think that hiding their feelings makes them less vulnerable to punishments.
  • They tend to suppress emotions.
  • They do not trust genuine intentions or affection or emotions as they are used to earn love by living up to the set rules. This may impact relationships, which need intimacy or honesty.

Difficulty In Dealing With Negative Emotions

  • They think that negative emotions are not acceptable and may create a wrong self-image.
  • This may lead to immense anger or depression that arises out of suppressing their emotions.

Negative View Of God

  • Children grown up under authoritarian parenting may be obedient to God just out of the fear of punishment.
  • Such children grow up with a negative view towards God and may not try to develop a deeper relationship with Him.

4. Social Effect On Kids

  • They consider verbal or physical power attractive. They assume that showing power on those who are weaker or inferior may help them.
  • They also like to incorporate fixed hierarchical behavior.
  • There is a relatively higher risk of developing antisocial behavior in such children and increased chances of association with antisocial elements in the society.
  • Authoritarian parenting style is also associated with drug use and juvenile delinquency.

5. Academic Performance

  • Research indicates that kids from authoritarian family are poor in academic performance, social or cognitive competence, and psychological well-being.
  • According to psychologists Melissa Kamins and Carol Dweck, shaming a child for poor performance may lead to a poorer performance in problem-solving.
  • Kids learn well from positive feedback rather than negative.

How To Know If You Are An Authoritarian Parent?

Most studies use questionnaires to identify authoritarian parents. Parents are asked to rate their agreement or disagreement to a few statements concerning their family relationship.

Below are examples of such questions. It is to be noted that parenting classification does not depend on just a few questions.

1. If you strongly AGREE with the below statements, you are likely to be identified as authoritarian.

  • When my child questions why to do something he was asked to, I reply saying “because I want you to do it” or “because I said so”.
  • I withhold expressions of affection and simply punish my child.
  • I explode in anger at my child for his misdeed.
  • I yell or shout if the kid misbehaves.

2. If you strongly AGREE with the below statements, you are less likely to be identified as authoritarian.

  • I discuss plans with my kids and listen to their ideas .
  • I look to comfort or help my upset child.
  • My kid feels free to approach me with any problem.

More Questions To Know If You Are Authoritarian:

These questions help you recognize if you are an authoritarian parent:

  • Do you have strict rules for your child that you believe to be followed at any cost?
  • Do you offer explanations for the rules?
  • Do you give choices and decisions to your child?
  • Do you mostly resort to punishment to make your child do something?
  • Do you hide your love for your child?

If you view yourself to be an authoritarian parent, it is time to develop a positive parenting pattern.

Is Authoritarian Parenting the best way to raise kids?

Most studies say no to authoritarian parenting. Children raised by authoritarian parents may relatively behave well but they tend to have poor social skills, lower self-esteem and are less resourceful. Such kids may also achieve less at academics in comparison to kids belonging to authoritative families.

How To Change Your Parenting Style?

Authoritarian parents might rate themselves as champions of morality but kids raised in that setting are less advanced concerning moral reasoning and self-regulation. It is likely for such kids to ‘tune out’ their parents as they turn old. Most experts believe that this parenting pattern is too punitive and lacks unconditional love and warmth needed by a child. If you are willing to implement positivity and essence of love in your parenting style, follow these tips to get out of the authoritarian groove.

1. Start Slow:

  • Bring in the changes gradually. A drastic change may hamper your child’s mental condition, and he fails to adapt to the change.
  • Try incorporating small doses of patience, forgiveness and self-compassion, to begin with.

2. Hold Your Patience:

  • Take time to calm down and implement the changes in an organized manner. If you start getting tensed and lose your patience, there is a possibility of things turning out negative.
  • Staying calm and composed will help you take necessary constructive steps and guide your growing child. Your positive behavior encourages the child to learn things quickly.

3. Talk And Listen:

  • Try to have an open communication with your growing child and listen to him. Solve his queries.
  • Ask your child about his experiences in school, and know about his feelings and interests. It even helps in establishing stronger parent-child emotional bonding.
  • Involve him in decision-making.
  • Make your child understand that rules guide and govern their conduct in a positive direction.

4. Encourage Learning From Mistakes:

  • Instead of jumping to conclusions and giving harsh punishments, make your child understand his mistakes, possible negative consequences and help him to perform better the next time.
  • Ask him how he can overcome the situation. This practice helps in strengthening your child’s decision-making ability.
  • Make your child understand that you are always proud of him, and he needs to handle stressful situations firmly.

5. Don’t Take The Parenting Style Too Seriously:

  • It is not necessary for you to stick to a particular parenting style. Try to adopt a friendly style to guide and nurture your child. At the same time tell him about your expectations. Help him reach them.
  • Encourage self-regulation in your child for self-motivation, independence and development of self-esteem.
  • View a broken rule as a life lesson rather than disobedience. Encouraging self-discipline in the child boosts his independence, self-esteem and self-motivation.
  • A positive discipline approach makes a child feel valued as their opinions are respected.
  • The key is to nurture a positive and loving atmosphere at home for your child to grow.

FAQs On Authoritarian Parenting:

1. What are the different parenting styles?

Pioneered by Diana Baumrind, psychology professionals recognize four parenting styles in general. They are permissive, authoritative, rejecting-neglecting, and authoritarian (4).

Permissive parents are high in responsiveness and low in control attempts and demands. The relationship is indulgent.

Authoritative parents have high demands as well as responsiveness. The relationship is reciprocal and high in two-directional communication.

Rejecting-neglecting parents are low in responsiveness and less demanding. They are uninvolved, and the relationship is rejecting and neglecting.

Authoritarian parents have high demands but are low in responsiveness. The way of communication is unidirectional.

2. Why do some parents choose authoritarian parenting style?

A few parents follow authoritarian parenting, if:

  • they are driven by their cultural, national or ethical influences.
  • they were raised by authoritarian parents.
  • they do not consider alternative approaches.
  • they believe that ruling is the only way to keep kids under control.

3. What is the meaning of a ‘tiger mother’?

The term tiger mother is coined by Yale University law professor Amy Chua in her memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (5).

Tiger mother refers to a demanding or strict mother who pushes her child to outperform in education to attain high scholastic levels and academic achievement. The characteristics are typically seen in the mothers of South Asian, East Asian and Southeast Asian origin. They damage the physical, social, emotional, and psychological well-being of the child.

4. What is the difference between authoritarian parenting and authoritative parenting?

Authoritarian parents are strict and believe in bending the child’s will through authority. Authoritative parents are also strict but loving. They tend to adjust their expectations in lines with the child’s need.

They may not change their mind but lend an ear to the arguments from children, persuade, explain and punish, only if required. They recognize their responsibility towards the child and respect his rights.

According to research, best-behaved, best-adjusted, most resourceful and successful kids have authoritative parents.

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