Karabo Mokoena
2 minute read
8 Sep 2020
11:00 am

‘It’s my way or the highway’ style of parenting

Karabo Mokoena

Authoritarian parenting is a style of parenting where children strictly abide by the parent's rules.


Here, we look at authoritarian parenting.

Biological anthropologist and writer Gwen Dewar founded the parenting site Parenting Science, and here, she makes a distinction between authoritarian and authoritative parenting.

Authoritarian parenting

According to Dewar: “Authoritarian parents demand a sort of blind obedience from their children.”

This means, by virtue of them being the parent, the child needs to obey all their rules: It’s my way or the highway.

Leading health site Very Well characterises authoritarian parenting by two key traits:

  • High expectations of children
  • Limited feedback provided

In cases where feedback is provided, it is negative and hardly constructive.

Also Read: Authoritative parenting and other parenting styles you should know about

Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind developed the concept of authoritarian parenting in the 1960s when she conducted her research with pre-school going children. Here, she identifies that “people with this parenting style often use punishment rather than discipline. They are not willing or able to explain the reasoning behind their rules.”

Rick Trinkner, a doctoral candidate at UNH and the lead researcher argues: “When children consider their parents to be legitimate authority figures, they trust the parent and feel they have an obligation to do what their parents tell them to do.”

An authoritarian parent prioritises the safety of his/her children. When children feel obliged to obey their parents’ rules, they will engage less in activities that might pose a risk to their safety. This is the biggest benefit of being an authoritarian parent.

How does this affect children?

  • Conform easily to authority
  • Act aggressively outside the home
  • Lack of social competence
  • More susceptible to anxiety and depression
  • Associates harshness with caring
  • They are shy around others

According to Very Well Mind: “Children raised by authoritarian parents are not encouraged to explore and act independently, so they never really learn how to set their own limits and personal standards.”

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