There are several different parenting styles practiced around the world. One of the most common in use is the authoritarian parenting style.
This method of parenting is often expressed in the phrase, “Because I said so.” Parents demand compliance from their children with this style. Rewards and consequences are then offered based on the acceptance levels offered by the child. Descriptions of it compare the authoritarian parent to a king, queen, or dictator. Their rule becomes the law of the household.
Every family is a little different. Some parents even use multiple styles with their children to create the home they want. Here are the pros and cons of the authoritarian parenting style to review if you’re thinking about this option.
List of the Pros of the Authoritarian Parenting Style
1. Kids listen to authority figures better with authoritarian parents.
Children who come from authoritarian homes are often easy to spot. They are the kids who always obey their teachers and other adults. There is no questioning of the authority figures in their lives. They instead focus on quietly and peacefully completing the tasks given to them, no matter how difficult the circumstances may be. Many of these children are described as being the “best-behaved kids” others know, which reinforces the behavior at home and in public places.
2. Children want to do the right thing when they grow up with this style.
Authoritarian parents tell their children what the correct choice and incorrect options are with each decision. This discussion shows kids what it means to be “good” and “bad” based on the decisions they make. Because these conversations happen proactively, before a choice must be finalized, kids growing up in this parenting style often seek out proactive solutions to the problems they believe are coming their way. That creates a child who is less reactive, which means they’re also less likely to be impulsive.
3. Kids with authoritarian parents are goal-orientated.
Because children grow up with rigid expectations and rules with this parenting style, they’re more likely to set goals for themselves. They understand that if they complete Task A, then work on Task B, they’ll be rewarded with something they want. That sets the foundation for persistence as an entrepreneur, ambition in hierarchy environments, and a desire to achieve success because it reflects well upon them and their family.
4. Children from authoritarian households focus on safety as a top priority.
Authoritarian parents create rules for outside of the home too. Their goal is to keep their kids as safe as possible in whatever circumstances they happened to find themselves going through. They’ll practice situations with their children to help them become confident in their own decisions when a problematic situation arises. This process helps the kids know what choices to make, while it gives the parents extra confidence in their children and how they make choices.
5. Kids with authoritarian parents learn responsibility at an early age.
Children with parents using this style will always try to make what they perceive is a moral choice. Although their skill development may lack in certain areas, depending on the rules outlined in the home, there is resiliency built into the approaches used by each child. They create thrills for themselves by achieving goals or participating in parent-approved activities. These kids don’t go out shoplifting or creating trouble because there is no long-term reward available when doing so.
6. Children receive instructions without confusion with this parenting style.
Other forms of parenting allow kids to figure out problems on their own. This creates confusion for the child when they’re unsure of how to proceed. With an authoritarian parent, there is no confusion. Kids are given a clear set of expectations to follow, often accompanied by specific step-by-step instructions which help them complete their tasks. Everyone in the family fits into a role, which offers a sense of satisfaction for a job well-done when everything and everyone works as they should.
7. Kids from authoritarian homes keep their word.
Authoritarian parents are often misrepresented as encouraging perfectionism. This parenting style recognizes that mistakes happen. What is expected after a mistake involves two specific steps: making things right, and learning from the experience. Kids are expected to find ways to make people whole if they’ve wronged them in some way. They’re taught that each mistake is a learning opportunity, which gives them a chance to be a little better the next day. It may cause issues for kids who make frequent mistakes in the same area as this will be seen as “not trying” by most authoritarian parents, but it does create an environment where responsibility is a priority.
List of the Cons of the Authoritarian Parenting Style
1. Kids become angry in authoritarian homes.
Children with authoritarian parents are living in constant fear. Although they have an idea of their expectations, and often do their best to follow them, they don’t know if their mom or dad will change their mind. Even with strict standards and rules in place, kids don’t always understand what it is they did wrong. There’s no explanation given as to why specific expectations or activities must be accomplished in the ways demanded. Over time, children often grow up feeling angry about their life, their circumstances, and their relationship with their parents.
2. Children in authoritarian homes have lower self-esteem levels.
Kids who interact with authoritarian parents grow accustomed to completing orders. They base their self-esteem on how their parents perceive them instead of how they see themselves. Because this parenting style focuses on the negative choices more than positive choices, children often think of themselves as “never being able to do anything right.” They think in black-and-white absolutes where failure is what happens most often. Their primary focus is to obey, then be quiet.
3. Kids in authoritarian homes see society differently.
Children who have authoritarian parents are rarely afforded the “luxury” of thinking for themselves. They’re always told how to do things, when to work, and what schedule to follow. The opportunities to share an opinion or find a creative solution are minimal. That turns these kids into adults who have an altered sense of reality when dealing with the rest of society. They become closed-minded people because they were never allowed to be open-minded in the first place.
4. Children are forced to rely on the rules.
Parents using the authoritarian style will create lines that cannot be crossed when following the rules. Every behavior and choice are subjected to an evaluation by the expectations offered. There is a right and wrong choice for every situation, even though there may be no good or bad choices in a real-life situation. Because kids are forced to rely on the rules to make choices, uncertain situations with no clear-cut answers create hesitation from the child, which may hamper how they learn when compared to kids from other parenting styles.
5. Kids from authoritarian homes often rebel.
Children see the privileges that other kids earn (or naturally have with permissive parenting) and they want the same thing at home. Most authoritarian parents will not allow a permissive environment, setting the stage for rebellion. Older kids sometimes break the rules at home to test limits or to see how that choice makes them feel. When the child becomes an adult, they may pursue activities which they know their parents disapprove of as a way to declare their independence. When this type of situation occurs, it is not unusual for the parent or the child to have an estranged relationship with the other family members.
6. Children are not given any flexibility in the desired outcomes.
Authoritarian parents don’t look at the outcomes a child achieves. They look at the processes used to get to the outcome. Even if their kids are successful, this type of parenting will initiate consequences if specific steps are not followed. That focus prevents creativity, innovation, and relationship development within the family structure. Even worse, if there is a conflict, the child knows immediately that their parents will hold them responsible because authoritarian parents rarely see themselves as being at fault.
7. Kids with authoritarian parents see bullying behaviors as normal.
The most severe cases of bullying occur when one child perceives another as not being good at a specific sport. Children are bullied most often when they’re perceived to self-identify with the LGBTQIA+ community. That happens more often in authoritarian homes because the child sees someone else their age not living by the same rules. Social attitudes from the home manifest themselves at school. Authoritarian parents hold their children to the same standards, so they do to others what their parents do to them. It isn’t seen as “wrong” because they’re “encouraging” others to meet expectations.
8. Children receive few tangible rewards with the authoritarian style.
Many parents who practice the authoritarian style work on the idea that a job done well is rewarding enough. Actual displays of affection or tangible rewards for following expectations are rare. The primary reward for these kids is that they don’t have a consequence headed their way for something. Because there is no tolerance for any misbehavior, many kids feel like they’re isolated from their family, that their parents don’t care about them, unless they end up doing something wrong.
9. Kids don’t know who develops the definition of “right.”
Authoritarian parents often come from homes with a similar parenting style. They were brought up that way, so they’re going to bring up their children in the same way. The issue within these families involves the definition of “right” and “wrong” in each circumstance. Many definitions are based on real-life experiences or past situations, but it is possible for that definition to shift sometimes too. When kids have authoritarian parents who don’t create set guidelines for their kids, every situation becomes a reprimand. That can lead to abusive situations which place the child in danger.
The pros and cons of the authoritarian parenting style show us that following the rules “no matter what” creates a sense of morality, but it comes at the price of individuality. A balanced approach which permits self-expression and creativity, combined with some of the rule-setting expectations, often works the best when creating a balanced vision of the future.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.