Focus on the Family

Why Authoritarian Parenting Falls Short

Why do you parent? Do you give thought to your decision-making process for the parenting choices you make? Learn more about how the authoritarian parenting style falls short when it comes to effective parenting.

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What is the purpose of parenting? To raise up obedient children? To raise up successful human beings? Is it all about following rules and pursuing excellence like the authoritarian parenting style offers? Or is there more?

If you are a parent, God provided you with an incredible invitation to be called a mom or a dad. How does this calling affect your parenting style?

What is Authoritarian Parenting?

Authoritarian parents desire kids to listen the first time and to not question authority. They love the structure of rules and the rightness of immediate obedience. They are the “because I told you so” parents of the world and tend to emphasize the need for a child to be immediately obedient without questions. This parenting style is all about valuing structure and obedience over relational warmth.  

I have met several moms and dads with great intentions focused on raising responsible, successful, and confident children with a Christian faith. Unfortunately, some of the parents are so focused on the rules of scripture, responsibility, and the success of their kids that they miss out on the incredible transformation and joy found in relationship.

The Clock is Ticking

Parenting is not about having perfect kids Instead. Instead, it’s about transformation so you can influence your kids through your loving role of being mom or dad. On a deeper level, it’s also about guiding kids toward a trusting and loving relationship with Christ.

Many authoritarian parents end up lamenting the fact that their children are suddenly grown up and are not as interested in spending time with them since there was very little relationship along the way. They also see that their kids are not very interested in following a God of only rules and punishment.

Negative Effects of Authoritarian Parenting

As a reminder, the four basic styles of parenting researchers have identified are permissive, authoritarian, neglectful, and authoritative. Authoritarian is quite different from authoritative even though sometimes people get confused between the two styles.

The authoritative parenting style combines high levels of discipline and guidance with high levels of warmth and sensitivity. On the other hand, the authoritarian style mainly heavily focuses on discipline and rules with minimal warmth and sensitivity.  

Because of this, most research on the authoritarian parenting style points to a higher likelihood of certain problems in children, including the following increased risks:

4 Types of Authoritarian Parents

Throughout more than two decades as a family therapist, I’ve noticed four types of authoritarian parents:

  • Driven – Parents who are competitive and want their kids to excel in everything they do. These parents can instill some incredibly consistent habits in their home culture and within their kids. They pursue goals and order but end up missing out on the relationship their kids crave along the journey.
  • Prideful – Parents who have a hard time losing, being wrong, or being challenged. They need admiration, respect, and obedience. They are focused on “looking good” from the outside. Also, if there is a perception that they have everything perfectly in order, then they assume they will receive admiration from others.  
  • Angry – Parents who are not patient with disorder, imperfection, and/or disobedience and may have had authoritarian style parents growing up. These parents may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from combat, abuse, or other traumas that are impacting their ability to have patience and warmth. Rules help them feel in control of something.   
  • Controlling – Parents who want to have control out of fear of not being in control or the thought that control means everything is ok. They perceive rules and structure as the purpose of parenting.

Is There a Better Option?

The goal for parents should be to provide guidance, motivation, and limits within a trusting, secure, and connected relationship with their children.

I love, Proverbs 15:31-33 in the context of our own discipline and the discipline of children. It says, “the ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” 

What is “life-giving” reproof? This is about providing direction and teaching for children out of humility, wisdom, awareness, listening, and focused on their growth rather than their performance.

How can children learn what is healthy without warmth and relationship? How can they give warmth and love to others without first getting the warmth and love from their parents?

The high levels of guidance, responsibility, and boundaries that characterize the authoritarian parenting style are essential for growth of character and resilience. At the same time, warmth and sensitivity are foundational to secure attachment and relationships. in turn, authoritative parenting balances both sets of qualities. Also, the 7 Traits of Effective Parenting from Focus on the Family outlines practical ways to bring high levels of warmth and sensitivity to high levels of boundaries, limits, and guidance.

Finally, to learn more about the authoritarian parenting style and the other three parenting styles, visit here. There you can also learn more about the 7 Traits of Effective Parenting, which is based off the extensive research on secure attachment and the more ideal authoritative parenting style.

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