As parents, we hear a lot about the different types of parenting. I’d heard about authoritarian parenting but wondered what some authoritarian parenting examples and long-term effects might be.
Authoritarian parenting examples include spanking, shaming, criticizing, and parenting through fear-based techniques. Some of the authoritarian parenting effects of this style include being more likely to bully others, suffer from depression, and being more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
But that only scratches the surface!
The right parenting styles help prepare our kids for the real world. They foster kindness, integrity, and honor. They make for a better generation than the ones that came before.
But the wrong parenting style can do real long-term damage to our kids. When we are too domineering, too unbending and value compliance over love we can set our kids up for some real challenges later in life.
So in this article, we’re defining the authoritarian parenting style. But we’ll also give real-world authoritative parenting examples to make it crystal clear. And, we’ll also review all the main styles and the key differences between authoritarian and authoritative.
What is authoritarian parenting?
Picture a dictator or drill Seargent.
The authoritarian parent barks orders and demands blind obedience. They don’t want consensus, nor do they want a discussion. They just want their kid to do as they are told immediately, without hesitation, and certainly without backtalk.
Some call this tough love.
But in reality, there’s very little love involved. There is a lot of anger and fear instilled in the child. While many parents in today’s world have moved beyond spanking, physical discipline is still very much a part of authoritarian parenting.
There’s also very little warmth or nurturing.
The child isn’t cuddled or consoled after a failure or disappointment. The child is often told to refer to the parents as “yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir”. There’s no excitement between parent and child. There’s only a child hoping and praying to be perfect to avoid another scolding.
Ultimately, the authoritarian parent is both covering up insecurities AND trying to make the hard job of parenting easy.
You see, done right, parenting is a tough job. It’s our job as parents to prepare our kids for the real world. That, by definition, involves letting them have just enough age-appropriate freedom to make mistakes, and then learn from them.
If we just bark orders and have severe consequences for failure or disobedience, it might make the job of parenting easier. But we’re failing our kids by not allowing them to learn the skills they need to learn to live in the real world.
All the authoritarian parent is really teaching their child is to lie, sneak, and hide to avoid consequences. That and to fear authority in general.
What is an example of authoritarian parenting?
One great example of this kind of parenting is Chris Cooper’s character in the film American Beauty. His character, Colonel Fitts, is the father of Ricky.
He’s angry all the time (at everyone). Everyone walks on eggshells around him. He has high expectations of his kid and swift and severe punishment when Ricky fails to live up to those expectations.
Another more comedic example of an authoritarian parent is Red Forman from That ’70s Show.
Kurtwood Smith plays Red. He too is ex-military and struggles with his idea of what it means to be a man. He’s perpetually grumpy, easily irritated, and constantly belittling his son Eric. Physical violence is often threatened, and light profanity (remember this is network TV) is often used.
One last authoritarian parenting example might be Vernon Dursley from the Harry Potter books and movies.
As Harry’s Uncle-in-law, he’s cruel, negligent, paranoid, and insists on Harry’s blind obedience while showing obvious and significant favoritism to his own son Dudley.
What is an example of authoritative parenting?
Authoritative parenting examples, by comparison, might look like the parents from The Incredibles.
They’re flawed, don’t always know what to do or what’s best. But they try their best. They call each other out on their mistakes. And they take ownership of their many mistakes.
You see, it’s a myth that parents have to be perfect.
If you’re doing the job of parenting correctly, you WILL make mistakes. You will screw up. That’s OK. Take ownership when you mess up. Apologize to your kids. Try again. Learn the lesson, and move on.
Another great example of an authoritarian parent is Adam and Kristina Braverman.
They too are far from perfect. There are a lot of mistakes made and tempers lost. And every mistake does impact their kids in some way. But that’s OK. That’s what parenting and growing up is all about.
Kristina, played by Monica Potter, is high-strung and emotional. She loses her cool sometimes, and in those moments, she can let her emotions get the best of her. But she comes back from those moments. She takes ownership, picks up the pieces, and moves forward.
Adam Braverman, played by Peter Krause, has a heart of gold.
But he also has a short fuse and can easily get rattled. He so much wants to love and support his family but isn’t always sure what to do at the moment to make that happen.
But together, they are perfectly imperfect.
If all parents were perfect, kids would enter the real world very ill-prepared to deal with it.
What are the 4 types of parenting styles?
In truth in today’s world, there are more than 4 main parenting styles. But the 4 primary ones initially identified are:
I would add the following to that list:
- Conscious Parenting
- Attachment Parenting
- Helicopter Parenting
Learn more about all 7 of those styles and the pros and cons of all of them in my post of Poor Parenting Examples (click to read my article to see them all).
Who came up with the 4 parenting styles?
Diana Baumrind was a noted parenting expert and psychologist whose work in the 1960s and 1970s was considered groundbreaking. She most famously noted 3 parenting styles initially:
Later the neglectful parenting style was split off from the permissive style.
Learn more about the crucial tips the Baumrind Parenting Styles (click to read my article which breaks down her beliefs) can teach us.
What is the difference between authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles?
The authoritarian parenting examples feature a top-down, dictatorial command and control parenting style. Think drill sergeant or the Chris Cooper character of Frank Fitts in the movie American Beauty I mentioned above.
The authoritarian parenting examples trade love, kindness, compassion and empathy for blind obedience inspired by fear and punishment.
Authoritative parenting, by comparison, sets clear expectations. It also sets clear boundaries, guidelines, and consequences for poor behavior.
But where authoritative differs from authoritarian is that authoritative parents are explaining the why behind a request. They also know that everyone, including themselves, makes mistakes. So they also take ownership of their own mistakes.
So, while authoritative parents do hold their kids accountable for their actions, they never lose sight of the love they have for their kids. They also use love as the underlying reason for how they parent instead of fear.
There are 4 parenting styles, Diane Baumrind says.
What parenting style do you think you employ? pic.twitter.com/bf7FOOPiSj
— TANARI TRUST (@TanariTrust) May 30, 2018
What do authoritarian parents do?
The authoritarian parent does some or all of the following:
- Yells to instill fear and obedience
- Uses physical punishment
- Has severe consequences for failure, disobedience, or backtalk
- Uses the phrase “because I said so”
- Never apologizes for their own behavior or mistakes
The child ultimately learns to fear their parents.
The net result from this is they learn to be mistrustful of authority specifically and others in general. Children of authoritarian parents still misbehave but they become skilled at covering their tracks and lying to hide the actions.
The long-term authoritarian parenting effects include damaged self-esteem and can foster issues with anger management.
What are the effects of authoritarian parenting style?
Ultimately, authoritarian parenting can be very damaging to kids.
Unfortunately, when those damaged kids become parents themselves, the pattern often gets passed down. That may seem ironic given the child of an authoritarian parent knows their parent’s behavior is wrong.
But unfortunately, having the wisdom to identify bad behavior doesn’t naturally teach us what we should do instead.
Here are some of the long-term effects of authoritarian parenting:
- Kids are less likely to feel socially acceptable (by other kids in their age range)
- Children of authoritarian parents are more likely to bully others (because they were essentially bullied themselves)
- Kids of authoritarian parents are less resourceful (since they are not encouraged to be free thinkers)
- Children raised in an authoritarian home are more likely to suffer from depression
- Kids tend to perform worse at school when raised by an authoritarian parent
- The worst of the long-term authoritarian parenting effects may be that kids have a greater likelihood of abusing drugs and alcohol
Sources for the above claims include: National Institutes of Health in one study and again in another and another, the International Journal of School & Educational Psychology, The Universities of Temple and Wisconsin
So let’s review the . . .
9 Worst Authoritarian Parenting Examples & Effects to Avoid
1. DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO
Many kids have heard this phrase over the years.
In many circles in decades past it was probably even thought of as appropriate or an example of good parenting. The trouble is when kids see you doing things you have told them not to do (using profanity, smoking, yelling, etc) it creates confusion.
Kids can smell a hypocrite a mile away.
They may fear you enough to not question you, but they won’t respect you. When kids don’t respect you, they will only obey you when you’re around. Parenting is for the long haul.
We’re trying to set our kids up for success for life and we won’t always be there.
2. BECAUSE I SAID SO
Many a grumpy Dad has uttered this phrase too.
In fact, this might be the most typical of authoritarian parenting examples. The problem with this is it asks the child for blind obedience without helping them understand why it’s being asked.
I don’t know about you, but when I don’t understand why something is expected of me, I’m apt to question it. I’m certainly likely to not do it correctly if I don’t understand it. And I certainly am not likely to do it when the asker isn’t around.
So always take the time to explain the “why” behind the request.
It will help your kids fully understand and even if they don’t agree they’re much more likely to do it. And they’re much more likely to KEEP doing it. It also shows them that you respect them.
They, in turn, will respect you, making your ongoing parenting efforts a whole lot easier.
3. SPANKING & OTHER PUNITIVE PUNISHMENTS
When I was a kid, spanking was encouraged!
Even teachers used corporal punishment on misbehaving kids. Today, most circles of society border on considering that to be abuse.
Our mindset as a society changed. We realized that if we replace love with fear when kids no longer love you but are simply afraid of you, they will only “behave correctly” in your presence.
I wonder how many kids who were regularly spanked or paddled said “yes, sir” to their Dad only to turn right around when he was gone and turn to drugs or alcohol or other risky behaviors?
Those are real authoritarian parenting effects that will last for years and take a lot of work to overcome.
Set clear boundaries and guidelines. Be firm, fair and consistent. Let your kids know and feel your love for them. But also hold them accountable in a loving way when they misbehave.
When you do that and are clear on why they are being held accountable, physical punishments become unnecessary.
4. MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY
Let’s be honest. Sometimes we just want our kids to do what we’re asking without question.
- Clean your room!
- Do your homework!
- Brush your teeth!
But the reality is that our being tired or cranky doesn’t give us a pass on good parenting. In most cases, our way isn’t the only way of accomplishing a goal.
So when it makes sense, give your kids a goal. Give them a time frame to complete it in. But then step back and let them have the freedom to accomplish that goal however they wish to.
If they don’t meet the goal then there will be consequences for that and it’s a good learning experience for them. But if they do meet it, they’ll respect the fact that you trusted them with completing the task without being micromanaged.
Shaming is another cornerstone of the authoritarian parenting examples.
Make no mistake. Kids need to know when they have misbehaved. They need to be held accountable for their actions. But shaming them holds no place in good parenting.
When we shame our kids, we do incredible damage to their self-esteem (click to read my list of ways to boost it).
So if your child gets a low grade or gets sent to the Principal’s office or otherwise does something they shouldn’t have done, it’s vital to communicate appropriately.
Never belittle them or name call. Don’t criticize the behavior in front of their friends. Pull them aside, just as a good boss would with an employee and discuss the issue.
You can let them know you are disappointed in a way that doesn’t make them feel like a terrible kid. Criticize the action, not the person.
7. QUICK TO CRITICIZE, SLOW TO PRAISE
The authoritarian parent is quick to anger.
Children of authoritarian parents are the ones likely to try and photoshop a bad grade on a report card or hide something they damaged.
While holding kids accountable for bad behavior is incredibly important, they can’t only hear the negative.
So make sure to call out what they do right! Kids do great stuff every day, so make sure they know it.
8. LACKING EMPATHY & WARMTH
When parents choose an authoritarian approach it can often be rooted in one of two things:
- They were raised that way so it’s all they know
- They are unhappy in their own lives and allow their frustrations to guide their parenting style
Thus, authoritarian parenting examples inevitably include a parent who lacks happiness and joy. They aren’t warm and loving. They appear cold and the child may learn to obey them.
They may say “yes, sir” or “no, ma’am”, but they never really learn how to connect with another in a deeply loving way.
Thus as the kids get older, they will naturally struggle in relationships. They may be mistrusting of authority. And they will always struggle to connect with others in a meaningful way.
9. NOTHING IS EVER GOOD ENOUGH
Authoritarian parents are quick to criticize and nothing ever feels good enough.
Kids inherently want their parent’s approval, so don’t make them beg for it. It’s OK to have high standards, but don’t make them so ridiculously high that your child never meets it.
Talk about goals with your kids. Get them involved in the process of setting them. Empower them to want to meet and exceed those goals.
When you do that, you’re setting them up for success for life. And isn’t that what being a good parent is all about?
In this post, we took a hard look at some of the worst authoritarian parenting examples.
We also looked at some of the other parenting styles and how they differ. Lastly, we looked at the long-term authoritarian parenting effects and how the negative impact can damage our kids.
My goal with this post was to draw attention to some of the more damaging effects of bad parenting but mostly to get everything thinking and discussing.
You see none of us are perfect parents. But by taking the time to educate ourselves and be just a little better tomorrow than we are today, that makes us great parents!
If you liked this post, I highly recommend you take a moment and review the 23 Qualities of a Good Father (click to read my article). It’s one of my most popular parenting posts.