Authoritarian parenting: friend or foe?

By Cheryl Choong


People always tell you to stand up for what you believe in, until what you believe in differs from theirs.  

Confucious’ idealogies of filial piety and the hierarchical system that exists in Asian culture means that a parent’s authority should never be challenged: children are expected to respect and fulfill their parents wishes with no questions asked.  In traditional Chinese families, the elder a family member was, the more authority and power they had. Parents often exercise their authority as a way of instilling fear into their children to discipline them.

Authoritarian parenting is a way of instilling discipline into a child, but do its benefits really outweigh the indelible psychological effects it would have on a child?


A phrase commonly used by parents when disciplining their child. This single sentence only eight words long may seem short but stays ingrained in the child’s mind forever. Subsequently, the child will feel unworthy and powerless, doubting themselves and feeling inferior. These parents often do not realize how their words can have such immense impacts on their child, significantly lowering their child’s self esteem. “The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.” 2 Authoritarian parenting does the opposite. Authoritarian parents abuse and exploit their authority upon their children whenever their child’s opinions or beliefs differ from their own, resulting in the child being wary of people and losing self confidence.

Raised in a modernized yet traditional and conservative Chinese family, I have been told from a young age to adhere to the rules, respect the elderly, and never question why. I would be deemed as disrespectful, “unfilial” and shunned for “talking back” if I ever spoke up for what I believed in. This has resulted in me developing a dualistic thought pattern, always musing over what I would say rather than just saying what I thought. For sixteen years of my life, I subconsciously stay silent and nod my head and agree to whatever my parents have to say, as it is the only way to escape the wrath of my parents that would only spiral and unfold if my tone was too loud or my opinion was “incorrect”. Often times I ponder to myself: if only I had phrased the question a little differently, if only I had just agreed, if only I had not said anything.

Let me put this in black and white. Authoritarian parenting causes detrimental psychological and emotional harm to a child.  Qing Zhou, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley stated that “children raised by authoritarian parents are showing maladaptive outcomes, such as depression, anxiety and poor social skills.” 1 Children of authoritarian parents learn that showing emotions will result in deleterious consequences therefore they suppress their feelings and often put on an emotionally detached facade. Ultimately, these children lose their individuality as they doubt their every action and tremble in fear at their own parents.

If you are someone who has ever felt subdued, suppressed and silenced, know that you are not alone. It can be extremely daunting to speak up to our parents: the people that we have been taught to show respect to, but sometimes when a piece of a puzzle is in the wrong spot, you have to take it apart in order to piece it back together. Like how a wrong piece of a puzzle needs to be taken apart, the silence needs to be broken.

Find your voice and break the silence for a better tomorrow.

Works cited:

  1. Anwar, Yasmin. “The Verdict on Tiger-Parenting?” Berkeley News, 18 June 2013.
  2. Levine, Madeline. “Raising Successful Children.” The New York Times, 5 Aug. 2012, p. SR8

One thought on “Authoritarian parenting: friend or foe?

  1. Hana ElSoda

    Cheryl, this was an incredibly well written article. Your use of powerful diction and incorporating your own experiences made your editorial very emotional and captivating. Your arguments were very persuasive and you did an amazing job at using your supporting evidence to add to the legitimacy of your reasoning. Great job!

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