Authoritarian Parents

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Authoritarian Parenting: The Impact on Children.
By Matthew J. Miller, Psy.D.

Baumrind’s Parenting Styles
Parenting Types: 1. Authoritarian 2. Authoritative 3. Permissive 4. Neglectful In the early 1960’s, psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted experiments with parents. These experiments were designed to identify and understand how parents differ in their responses to their children. As a result of the Baumrind study as well as further research, four main styles of parenting were delineated. They are Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Neglectful. Each style has its own characteristics as well as effects on children’s development. This article will discuss the impact on children of authoritarian parenting.

Authoritarian Parenting

For Authoritarian parents, rules are often more important than relationship. Authoritarian parents have many rules and they enforce them. They expect and demand adherence to high standards. Having high standards for the behavior of children is not necessarily a bad thing. However, the way they go about achieving these high standards hurts the relationship between the parent and child. The authoritarian parent often fails to explain the reasoning for the rules. In fact, they do not engage in much conversation with their children regarding the rules. When children ask, “why?” the response is, “Because I said so.” Not only does authoritarian parenting impact the current relationship between parent and child, but this type of parenting can have long-term effects on the emotional development of the child even into adulthood. In addition, the impact of this style of parenting can also be felt in the child’s relationship with God.

The Current Relationship
There is a strong element of fear that pervades an authoritarian household. Much like an authoritarian government, there is compliance with rules, but the compliance is typically not out of love. Children in an authoritarian home comply out of fear. Fear of punishment and fear of the withholding of affection drives these children to comply. In addition to fear, the child does not feel loved and accepted by their parents. Children are punished for even minor infractions. Often, these punishments do not fit the crime and are overly punitive. Even worse, the punishments often result in relationship consequences which include a withholding of love and affection from the parents to the child. As a result, the child begins to learn that they are loved and accepted for what they do, rather than for who they are. John, a high-school basketball player I met, had this type of relationship with his father. His father would come to all of his games to see him play. While a parent’s presence at a child’s games should be a source of encouragement, for John it was not. If John had a good 2

Current Relationship Consequences: 1. Fear 2. Lack of love and acceptance 3. Lost opportunities for guidance

game, his father was like a “Chatty Kathy” doll on the way home. You could not shut him up. On the other hand, if John’s game did not go as well, there was absolute silence. His father would not speak to him. John learned quickly that there were conditions placed on him to received love. He was loved if he performed. He was not love if he did not perform. Children raised by authoritarian parents often are compliant with parental rules. Authoritarian parents point to this compliance as evidence that their style of parenting is working. However, as with many things in life, there is an opportunity cost to decisions we make. Growing up is difficult, especially in this day and age. There are many times that a child will need help and guidance as they grow. When we seek guidance, we tend to seek it from relationships where we feel loved and accepted. Since children of authoritarian homes do not experience love and acceptance from their parents, they will seek counsel from someone outside the home, or they may seek no counsel at all. While the...
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