The authoritarian family is one that follows the authoritarian – a very strict – parenting style. One of the many parenting styles which was defined by psychologist Diana Baumrind, authoritarian, or totalitarian parenting, focuses on order, discipline, and high standards. If you did not grow up in a stern household yourself, I am certain you can recall a house in the neighborhood that the children did not want to go hang out at after school. It was the house where you could not have any fun because the parents had too many rules. It was the family with kids who were immaculate and got the best grades in school but maybe never seemed very happy or a bit withdrawn. This was an authoritarian family.
Advocates of this style of parenting say that having order and set rules provides necessary boundaries for a child’s success. Achievement is highly valued in an authoritarian family so structure and adherence to what is expected is of the utmost importance. For many children, their every hour of each day is planned out. The schedule includes not only schoolwork and perhaps tutoring, but also extracurricular activities like musical instruction, sports, learning other languages and running for class president. Whether the child wants to do these activities or not is something that is not taken into consideration.
The authoritarian family also places a lot of significance on discipline. Punishment for breaking the rules or not doing as told can be quite severe. While corporal punishment, or spanking, is not as popular as it once was with most families, for the totalitarian family, spanking is more the norm. The difference between how discipline is carried out in this parenting style versus other styles (such as the authoritative parenting style) is that there is no discussion with the child. Rational for punishment is sometimes not clear to the child and there is definitely no questioning of the parents’ actions allowed. In general, feelings are not talked about so there is also very little expression of love from parent to child.
Those who disagree with this parenting style say it does not allow at all for the child’s individual freedom of expression. When the kids are constantly being told what to do, how to act, and who to be friends with, they do not know how to behave when they are on their own. They do not know who they are as a person once they are away from their parent’s tight regimen. This results in having children who may rebel, have low self-esteem, be more likely to participate in drug or alcohol use, and be more likely to contemplate suicide. One the plus side, some of the children raised in an authoritarian family end up being quite successful with many accolades and accomplishments.
While there can be some successful outcomes, psychologists and family studies experts are more likely to endorse a parenting style like the authoritative style that includes the child’s own feelings, ambitions and concerns while still providing boundaries. Keep in mind that many times, parents will embrace a combination of parenting styles which can also be very effective. The most important thing is to ensure that everyone who will be caring for the children are on the same page. The decision to have an authoritarian family style is one that should not be taken without thorough research and deliberation.
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