The Dangers of Authoritarian Parenting

There are three main classification of parenting styles. Permissive, Authoritarian, and Authoritative. Permissive is exactly what is sounds like-permitting the children to direct their own behaviors with very little, if any, guidance and direction from the parents. More information on this style of parenting and its dangers can be found in one of our earlier posts, “Dangers of Permissive Parenting“. Authoritarian parenting is on the other end of the spectrum.

Authoritarian parenting is heavy handed. This parenting style has extremely rigid boundaries and unreasonable expectations. It is the parenting style responsible for the phrase, “Because I said so.” There is very little conversation between parent and child regarding why certain rules exist, only that the rules exist and the child is expected to obey them without question. This style is characterized as harsh and inflexible. Here are some of the dangers of this type of parenting:

Because I Said So

  1. Your children may not learn to think for themselves.
    Imagine a child who is taught never to question authority. While during some stages of childhood this may be okay (no one wants a three-year-old constantly pushing parental boundaries on the rules of the house or question Mom when she says not to touch the hot stove or run out into the busy street), at some point we need to teach our children how to discern good from bad. We need to allow them to question why some rules exist. If an adult at school approaches the child and touches him inappropriately, we don’t want that child to submit to that treatment simply because he was taught to always do as adults say. Or, as the child grows older his belief system may come into question or he may be challenged by his peer groups on some of his behaviors. He needs to be able to understand why it’s not okay to be out after curfew or why he believes what he believes. If he never questions, he will never learn the right answers.
  2. Your children may become anxious.
    If you have high expectations for your children, often they will rise to your expectation. However, if your expectations are unrealistic, your children may internalize that struggle and live in fear of disappointing you or never being good enough.
  3. Your children may become a perfectionist.
    In trying to please you, your children may become so focused on doing everything right that it can become crippling. If they strive to be perfect, they may revel in their accomplishments for a while, but eventually they will realize perfection cannot be achieved. This may lead to feelings of inadequacy and depression.
  4. Your children may rebel at some point.
    At some point, if your children are frustrated by not being able to have their own opinions or freely talking with parents about what they feel is fair or unfair, odds are they will rebel. ¬†Often, authoritarian parents rely on corporal punishment (spanking) to control their children. When they are too old for spanking, then what? You may have no way of “controlling” them and you don’t have a mutually respectful relationship on which to draw to talk them through their frustrations. It is at this point many authoritarian parents threaten to call the police on their children, send them to a “boys/girls home” or military school, or send them to live with another parent or family member.

Children want to please their parents, but they need their parents to give them the love and nurturing environment in which they can thrive. If this parenting style describes you, it is a good idea to talk with someone about ways to change your approach. It’s never too late and there are family therapists and individual counselors who can help you modify your parenting style and begin to build a more solid and respectful relationship with your children.

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