What Is an Autocratic Parent?

If you've ever heard the words, "Because I told you so!" you've likely heard the voice of an autocratic parent. Autocratic parenting is one of three parenting styles -- the other two are called permissive and authoritative. Permissive parenting is exactly what its name indicates, while authoritative parenting is a goal to shoot for. Authoritative parenting, while perfectly acceptable in many cultures, might not provide the outcomes parents hope for -- that is, a compliant, motivated, mentally healthy adult.


The mantra of autocratic parents could be "My way or the highway." These parents tolerate no arguments -- or negotiations -- from their children. Take controversial "Tiger Mom" Amy Chua for example. Chua once once made her 7-year-old daughter practice a song on the piano for hours, allowing no bathroom breaks or dinner until she decided the piece was perfect. This style of parenting requires children to obey the rules, and provide reward and punishments for behavior.


Often, parenting styles are passed along from generation to generation. A parent might develop an autocratic parenting style in response to other factors as well, however. For example, some cultures value this parenting style over the more permissive approaches. Children who perform poorly in school or who have low intellectual functioning are more likely to be parented in this manner than children who are high functioning, according to a 2004 symposium presented at that year's Society for Research on Adolescence meeting.


Although it might seem as though children of autocratic parents would be less rebellious than their more permissively parented counterparts, this is not necessarily true. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, children who are subjected to this parenting method do not thrive 1. Rather, they become broken-spirited or rebel during their teenage years when they feel strong enough to stand up to their parents. Also, children who are not a part of the decision-making process growing up are likely to have difficulty making decisions once they are on their own.

Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parenting incorporates the best qualities of permissive and autocratic parenting into a style in which appropriate boundaries are maintained while the child is encouraged to participate in the decision-making process. According to a 2012 article in "The New York Times," decades of studies indicate that "the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy." Children fortunate enough to be raised by authoritative parents tend to do better in educational and social arenas, as well as experience better mental health 3.