What is Authoritarian Parenting

Last Updated on June 24, 2021 by Michele Tripple

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Authoritarian Parenting combines high expectations with low levels of warmth. Learn all about the pros and cons of this parenting style that is used by the strictest of parents!

Authoritarian Parenting

If you are a parent you probably from time to time have muttered the phrase “because I said so” when your kids ask you why they have to do something or why you won’t let them do something. 

Fast forward to years later when I was an overwhelmed mother of young kids. I discovered something that every other mom already knew: parenting is HARD! So you can bet there were days where I was not patient with my kids. There was yelling, there were punishments, and there were lots and lots of empty threats. 

I remember the day I realized that I was using authoritarian parenting with my kids. As a mom who worried a lot about making mistakes in parenting, I realized that I wanted to change how I was parenting my kids… and fast.

The question remains: is authoritarian parenting all bad? We will look at this parenting style in depth – the good and the bad! Find out if this is your current parenting style and what you can do about it.

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What is Authoritarian Parenting?

Authoritarian parenting is one of the four main parenting styles (alongside permissive parenting, authoritative parenting, and uninvolved parenting). It is usually classified as the exact opposite of permissive parenting because authoritarian parents are strict and often overbearing.

It is important to note that authoritarian parents are not bad parents. In fact, parents who practice this parenting style usually have great intentions. They are hoping to raise responsible, honest, and capable kids. Those are all things that parents want their kids to be, we just all have different ways of going about it.

What is even more interesting is that kids of authoritarian parents DO tend to develop high levels of responsibility and they are very capable. These kids understand how to follow rules and often have a high respect for authority. So the remaining question is this: what’s the downside?

Key points of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting is the strictest of the four main parenting styles. These parents have little tolerance for disobedience and may not outwardly show affection to their kids. More characteristics of authoritarian parenting. 

  • Authoritarian parents expect their families to function from a list of specific (and sometimes very strict) rules. Authoritative parents have rules and boundaries for their kids too. What separates the two types of parents is the influence that the kids get to have on those boundaries. Authoritarian parents are unlikely to ever include their kids in rule-making.
  • Parents who practice this parenting style show little warmth toward their kids. This does not mean that they do not love their kids. They just may have a harder time showing affection and handling emotions.
  • Kids who are raised by authoritarian parents usually have long lists of chores that they know how to complete at very young ages. Kids as young as two or three are often expected to help with household chores (some of which may not always be age-appropriate).
  • Authoritarian parents are more focused on the physical safety of their kids than they are on their emotional wellbeing. 
  • When rules are broken, strict consequences are enforced. Authoritarian parents are not overly concerned with implementing “natural consequences” for their kids. They are more interested in teaching their kids to obey.
  • Threats and harsh punishments may be used by authoritarian parents to keep their kids in line. These parents may see these punishments as necessary for their kids to learn from their mistakes.

Pros of Authoritarian Parenting

You might be feeling overwhelmed by this information – especially if you’re like me and often find your parenting style closer to authoritarian than anything else. Despite the overly strict nature of this parenting style, there are some important strengths that we’d like to highlight.

  • Kids of authoritarian parents are usually the most well behaved kids in the room. These kids know how to act and what is expected of them at all times. 
  • Authoritarian parenting also tends to produce kids who are very cautious. You won’t find these kids participating in reckless behavior anytime soon!
  • Another strength is that kids who are raised by authoritarian parents are very good at accomplishing their goals. Because they have followed rules their whole lives, they understand how to create a plan and follow through with that plan.

Cons of Authoritarian Parenting

Just as each parenting style has its strengths, they each have weaknesses as well. And authoritarian parenting is no exception.

  • While kids with authoritarian parents tend to be goal-driven and well-behaved, they also struggle with reduced self-esteem. In more extreme examples, these kids also suffer from higher levels of anxiety and depression.
  • Because of the emphasis placed on rules and following rules, kids of authoritarian parents may find themselves confused when faced with a situation that doesn’t have one “right” answer.
  • Emotional withdrawal is another downside of this parenting style. There is usually not much room within authoritarian parenting for big, uncomfortable, and inconvenient emotions. Without being able to practice emotional intelligence, kids will often grow up unable or unwilling to express their emotions in any capacity.
  • Eventually, some kids will grow tired of endlessly and blindly following rules. This can very easily lead to rebellion from the kids – which can start at a very young age. These kids will do all that they can to go against everything their parents ever taught them.

Authoritarian Parenting In Action

Still not sure if you are an authoritarian parent? Let’s take a look at what authoritarian parenting looks like in action!

  • When it comes to screen time, authoritarian parents are likely to put strict (and sometimes unnecessary) limitations on when kids can use screen time.
  • Kids raised with authoritarian parents don’t usually have much freedom when it comes to mealtimes. Authoritarian parents provide one meal and have the attitude of “if you don’t eat this then you don’t eat at all” toward their kids. Snacking is also not something that is freely provided for their kids. If snacks are provided, then they are done so on a strict schedule, not necessarily when the kids are hungry.
  • Playing with friends or going outside is often scheduled. Or, at the very least, kids are expected to complete X, Y, and Z before they are able to see their friends.

How To Change My Parenting Style

Do you feel that you’re an authoritarian parent, but you’d like to change that? It is never too late to change some of the parenting skills that you want to work on! Here’s some things you can do RIGHT NOW to begin implementing more effective parenting practices.

  • Focus on natural consequences. Kids need to understand that all actions have consequences. But they learn best when the consequence naturally fits with whatever their action was. If a kid refuses to clean up their toys and the consequence is that they are grounded from TV for a week, it is hard for them to understand what they did wrong. If they do not clean up their toys and so they lose those toys, that may have a greater impact on them.
  • Include kids in rule-making. Every family should have SOME rules. Including the kids in making those rules not only helps them learn amazing problem-solving skills, but it also gives them more reason to comply. When including your kids in rule-making remember to listen intently to their ideas (even if they seem unrealistic) and compromise where you can.
  • Work to understand big emotions. Emotions can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. At times as parents, we just don’t want to have to deal with them. But they are a necessary and normal part of life. Become comfortable with emotions and understand that they won’t hurt you or your kids. Allow your kids to feel whatever emotions they are feeling and help them move past them.

How do you feel about authoritarian parenting? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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