What Is Authoritarian Parenting?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 09, 2021

Authoritarian parenting is an extremely strict parenting style. It places high expectations on children with little responsiveness. As an authoritarian parent, you focus more on obedience, discipline, control rather than nurturing your child. Mistakes tend to be punished harshly and when feedback does occur, it’s often negative. 

Yelling and corporal punishment are also common. Authoritarian parents punish children for failures while ignoring their achievements. They expect the child not to make mistakes and to obey them. However, the children they raise are typically good at following rules.

Characteristics of Authoritarian Parents

Socializing your children to the values and expectations of your culture is one of the major roles of parenting. However, if you’re an authoritarian parent, you may have your own expectations of your child that are contrary to what your child wants.

Other characteristics that may help to bring out authoritarian traits in your parenting style include:

You show little warmth or effort to nurture. Sometimes children can be truant, but that doesn’t allow you to become cold, unfriendly, and harsh towards your children. Instead of yelling at them, offer your kids the encouragement and praise they need to develop self-esteem and self-worth.

You default to shaming instead of positive reinforcement. Good parenting should have you instill good morals through a process that considers your child’s emotions. If you find yourself causing feelings of shame to compel your children to follow rules, you might be practicing authoritarian parenting. It’s important to know that shaming may lead to children having a bad attitude towards you. It also weakens the bond between you and a child, as they may want to avoid spending time with you. 

You’re impatient with misbehavior. As an authoritarian parent, you may not expect your children to engage in undesirable behavior. It’s difficult for you to accommodate a tolerant relationship with your child. Since you believe you know better, you may also lack the patience to explain to your children why they should avoid certain behavior. Instead, you spend little or no energy at all thinking about your kid’s perspective.

You have trust issues. Are you the kind of parent who doesn’t trust your children to make good choices? If you are, it’s time to change your parenting style. Children brought up by authoritarian parents don’t have the freedom to show that they can display good behavior. When you are always watching a child to ensure they don't make mistakes, you limit them from making decisions on their own. As a result, your child fails to face natural consequences for their choices which serve as valuable life lessons. 

You show no feelings or empathy. An authoritarian parent doesn’t empathize or show feelings for their kids. If you make no effort to entertain or understand your child’s emotions, it communicates insensitivity and lack of concern. Being such a parent will cause your children to emulate such behavior, treating others without regard for how they feel.

Effects of Authoritarian Parenting on A Child

Parenting styles have been associated with a variety of child outcomes including social skills and academic performance. The consequences of authoritarian parenting are more negative than positive. Below are some of the negative effects: 

  • Low self-esteem. While encouraging good behavior helps to reinforce discipline, criticizing makes the child doubt their worth and potential. Failing to appreciate a child’s achievements may also contribute to low self-esteem.
  • Difficulty in social situations due to a lack of social abilities. It’s important for children to develop social skills when they’re young. If your child lacks time to socialize, they may find it difficult to relate with others even when they become adults. 
  • Children may display aggressive behavior outside the home. Harshness, physical punishment, and exercising too much control lead to negative behavior in children. Punishment isn’t as effective as disciplining your child. Violence always incites violent behavior.
  • They cannot accept failure. When you make it clear that they must always get it right, children live under the pressure to perform. If your child’s behavior is based on avoiding punishment at all costs, you may need to change your parenting style. This makes them fear failure instead of taking a mistake as an opportunity to learn and improve. 
  • Your child conforms easily yet also suffers from anxiety. When a child doesn’t do the things you want them to do, they often end up angry, frustrated, and loud. This kind of behavior leads to anxiety in children.

Although authoritarian parenting is associated with negative outcomes, there are some possible positive outcomes. They include:

  • Children develop a desire to do things the right way. Due to constant nagging and reinforcement by parents, children will always want to do good. It may be due to fear of punishment or a result of being conditioned to behave in a certain way.
  • Parents raise more responsible children. Children hardly think about doing wrong things, since they get used to following rules. The habit becomes so strong that it continues through their adult life.
  • Children may turn out to be more goal driven. Authoritarian parents are specific about rules and how a child is expected to behave. As a result, their children are more likely to be more focused on everything they do which leads to giving their best.

Regardless of any perceived benefits of authoritarian parenting, it’s far better to be accommodating with your children. Change begins with admitting you don’t know everything there is to know about parenting. Getting as much information as possible about how to bring up a child the right way will go a long way toward making you a better parent.

Show Sources


American Academy of Pediatrics: “Pressure to Perform.”

GoodTherapy: “Self-Esteem.”

Journal of Education and Development: “Communication in Authoritarian Parenting on Learner Participation in Early Childhood Education Science Class in Homabay County, Kenya.”, “Influence of Parenting Style on Children’s Behaviour.”

National Center for Biotechnology Information: “Effective discipline for children.”

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: “Why parenting matters for children in the 21st century.”

Parents: “Authoritarian Parenting: The Pros and Cons, According to a Child Psychologist”

Parenting For Brain: “What is Authoritarian Parenting? Does Tough Love Work?”

SAGE Journals: “Telling a different story: The effect of parenting on the academic and professional achievement of 24 British-Ghanaian high flyers.”

Understood For All Inc.: “Should I force my child to socialize more?”

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