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10 Vital Tips on How to Recover from Authoritarian Parenting

| What is Authoritarian Parenting | How to Recover |

Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind have identify four types of parenting styles:

  • authoritative parenting style
  • authoritarian parenting style
  • permissive parenting style
  • uninvolved parenting style

What is Authoritarian Parenting

The authoritarian parenting style is characterized by high standards and low responsiveness.

Authoritarian parents are strict and demanding without being supportive. Children must follow their strict rules and instructions without question. Their behavior is shaped by what their parents believe is best. The authoritarian parent believes that they are always right no matter what. The authoritarian personality type is generally not agreeable​1​.

Many authoritarian parents are status-conscious. Because they believe their abilities as parents are reflected in their children’s behavior and academic achievement, they hold their children to high standards. Academic performance is expected without consideration for the negative side effects on children.

This type of parent holds excessive control over their children through fear, intimidation, and harsh punishment. They do not tolerate any behavior that threatens their status or authority.

Associations between parenting styles and adverse outcomes are well established. Analysis of parenting types has found that children are associated with negative outcomes such as low self-esteem, externalizing and internalizing behavioral issues, depression, substance abuse, and suicide attempts.

Parental demandingness and fear of punishment can also lead to anxiety in children​2​.

sad young man sits on floor

How to Recover from Authoritarian Parenting

Many adults who grew up in authoritarian families feel trapped by their upbringing.

The following tips can help you come out of the shadows and live a life free of the adverse effects of authoritarian style parenting .

Distance yourself physically

Authoritarian parents control their children with fear such as physical punishment. Separation can ensure your physical safety. 

Distancing from your parents can mean moving away from them or ceasing all contact with them.

A healthy boundary can be set when you are away from them.

Of course, this is not easy to do. You may feel conflicted, confused, and guilty for not wanting to be around your parents or  the feelings of shame for not taking care of them.

Taking responsibility for yourself is as important as taking care of others. Balance your happiness and wellbeing with your supposedly family duties.

Distance yourself mentally

Many adult children of authoritarian parents still allow themselves to be controlled by their parents’ anger and criticism.

As soon as your parents realize you are resisting their control, they may increase their verbal attacks and insults to make you feel miserable.

Give yourself permission to be you. Unlike when you were a child, you no longer need your parents’ approval for everything you do.

Call them out, in an adult way

Whenever they are being abusive, call them out on it. 

You don’t have to scream or yell back at them. Do it in a mature and controlled manner.

Simply say, “You are being rude and unreasonable. I don’t want to continue this conversation when you’re acting like that.” 

Be calm and assertive when pointing out their inappropriate behavior. Assert yourself as an adult in everything you do.

Repeat this: You are lovable

Low self-esteem is common among children of authoritarian parents​3​.

Over the years, all kinds of bad things have been said about you by your parents. You may even begin to believe them.

Don’t.

Make positive self-talk and affirmations a daily habit. Affirm yourself that you are lovable, even when people who should love you don’t.

You ARE lovable.

Relearn the world

Being raised in an authoritarian household is like being brainwashed from birth with rigid rules. Everything had only one way of doing it – their way, or the highway​4​.

The world, however, is not made up of dogmas.

As an adult, you may find out that some of your understanding of the world is inaccurate or false.

For example, authorities aren’t always right. If they’re being unreasonable, we can (and should) challenge them.

Keep an open mind. Re-discover the world and what it has to offer.

Learn to make decisions

Parents with authoritarian style of parenting often dictate what to wear, where to go, what to eat, and even how to eat it. This type of upbringing does not prepare you to make your own decisions. 

Having to make decisions for yourself as an adult can be challenging. The thought of your parents’ reaction or whether you’re really making the right decision might worry you.

Women are especially prone to indecisiveness when it comes to careers​5​.

When making decisions, don’t feel pressured to make the perfect one every time. Take your time learning. It’s not your fault that you didn’t have any practice before.

Seek advice and input from friends and mentors, but learn to trust yourself.

Ultimately, make the best decision for yourself, not for others.

Learn to stand by your feelings

You do not need others’ permission to feel a certain way.

As a child, you were constantly silenced and stifled. Your feelings were constantly dismissed and invalidated​6​.

Trying to express your feelings about your parents or childhood as an adult may result in similar treatment from friends and relatives who try to convince you that your parents are wonderful people.

They may not have experienced the same thing or have been raised to trivialize uncomfortable feelings. 

However, your feelings are yours. You don’t need to rely on their approval to feel.

Learn to create a support network

Society generally believes that parent-child relationships are highly meaningful, lifelong, and rewarding. There is a widely accepted adage that “blood is thicker than water.”. Blood families are said to survive insurmountable challenges and this closeness should not be broken.

If you were born more sensitive, your siblings may not share the same experience as you.

Because of this, some of your friends and siblings may not understand what you are going through. It doesn’t mean you should stop being friends with them. It is just a matter of choosing what you disclose to whom and finding other sources of support.

Having a supportive network of people who don’t judge you or make you feel bad is important. Take your time to build one. Meanwhile, a compassionate and experienced psychotherapist may be able to bridge the gap.

Learn to recognize triggers

The scars left by authoritarian parenting can last a lifetime. Become aware of your own feelings to heal those authoritarian wounding. Pay attention the next time you get upset or aroused. 

As children, we had no power or means to escape. As a protective mechanism, you learned that certain signals meant danger. After you’ve grown up, these signals can still trigger fear and defense even when you are not in danger anymore.

For example, if others discuss a certain topic, say certain words, or move their hands in a certain way, you may become emotional, scared, or reactive. Having these reactions may cause problems in your adult life and compromise your ability to maintain healthy, intimate relationships.

Identify these cues and learn to cope with the emotions they trigger adaptively. Having effective coping skills without suppression is vital to your social-emotional development and regaining the life you deserve.

Make sense of your childhood

Making sense of your past and reflecting on why you feel and act the way you do is the key to recovering from authoritarian parenting.

If you’re a parent, your parental style may also be influenced by your childhood. The different styles of parenting can influence the lives of future generations as you have witnessed first-hand.

Be conscious of your approach to parenting and prevent the negative effects of parenting from being passed on from generation to generation.

Some studies suggest that journaling and drawing expressive art under the guidance of counselors can be healing and good for mental health, too​7​.

Also see: How to deal with strict parents as a teenager

Final thoughts on how to recover from authoritarian parenting

Last but not least, professional help can speed up the healing process. It is also highly recommended for those who need extra support in this journey.

For those who cannot afford private therapies, look for community offerings that are free or more affordable. They are available in many states in the US.

References

  1. 1.
    Huver RME, Otten R, de Vries H, Engels RCME. Personality and parenting style in parents of adolescents. Journal of Adolescence. Published online August 28, 2009:395-402. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.07.012
  2. 2.
    Rudy D, Grusec JE. Authoritarian parenting in individualist and collectivist groups: Associations with maternal emotion and cognition and children’s self-esteem. Journal of Family Psychology. Published online 2006:68-78. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.20.1.68
  3. 3.
    Bun JR, Louiselle PA, Misukanis TM, Mueller RA. Effects of Parental Authoritarianism and Authoritativeness on Self-Esteem. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. Published online June 1988:271-282. doi:10.1177/0146167288142006
  4. 4.
    Vacchiano RB, Strauss PS, Hochman L. The open and closed mind: A review of dogmatism. Psychological Bulletin. Published online 1969:261-273. doi:10.1037/h0027056
  5. 5.
    Lease SH, Dahlbeck DT. Parental Influences, Career Decision-Making Attributions, and Self-Efficacy. Journal of Career Development. Published online August 4, 2009:95-113. doi:10.1177/0894845309340794
  6. 6.
    Chan SM, Bowes J, Wyver S. Parenting Style as a Context for Emotion Socialization. Early Education & Development. Published online July 27, 2009:631-656. doi:10.1080/10409280802541973
  7. 7.
    Utley A, Garza Y. The Therapeutic Use of Journaling With Adolescents. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health. Published online March 18, 2011:29-41. doi:10.1080/15401383.2011.557312

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