I have been raised by authoritarian parents. I have both low self esteem as well as a lack of self discipline.

I want to understand the relation between the two.

Why does authoritarian parenting style result in children with low self esteem and lack of self discipline?

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    before you accept a result of (frankly, extremely wishy-washy sounding) psychology finding as gospel truth, you may want to consider 2015 finding that half of psycjology studies' results aren't reproducible (more user friendly overview)
    – user3143
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 19:41
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    I was raised by extremely authoritarian parents, and although I do have self esteem issues I do not lack in self discipline. Quite the opposite. And my self esteem issues can be traced as much to my severe ADHD as to authoritarian parenting, although most of my siblings seem to have gotten the low self esteem thing. It is the constant focus on criticism (if it ain't broke don't mention it). I read somewhere that you should be giving positive feedback to your kids 4-5 times as often as negative. This is something I find it very hard to do as a parent. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 19:50
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    OTOH, my husband was raised in a very close knit, very positive environment, which has led to other problems. His mother taught him that he was brilliant, could do anything, etc, and this caused problems when he "hit the pavement" once he left the shelter of his home. It has made him very approval seeking and constantly disappointed with a world who will not give him the approval that his mother did. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 19:53
  • Although I have a hunch what "authoritarian style" means here, I do not buy into the strict authoritarian/non-authoritarian distinction. I guess my kids might think I am more authoritarian than their peers' parents, while at the same time they think that in many aspects I am giving them way more freedom that their peers have. (E.g., I leave the exact time they turn off the light, stop reading, and go to sleep up to them rather early in their lives, but once we agreed that last night was too short, and tonight they'd rather be in bed early, I will not tolerate deviation.) So am I authoritarian?
    – sbi
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 19:37
  • You can be very clear in your decisions, and yet at the same hand lots of responsibilities to your children. You can answer their questions "Why do we have to do X?" and all follow-up questions, while still insisting they'd do X (and do it now). You can be very strict about the time they should be home at night, while at the same time finding this time by mutual agreement. People seeing me interact with my children initially often consider me rather strict and authoritarian, while after a while their feedback is I am rather libertarian with my kids.
    – sbi
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


Not a full answer with citable things, but it is too long for a comment, so here is half an answer:

Going from the signs of authoritarian parents from your source:

  • Have strict rules and expectations: Strict rules mean: no own decision-making. Strict expectations means a lot of feedback on mistakes made, and therefore to focusing on those. Also, the parents set the rules, so, how are you supposed to learn how to make your own?
  • Very demanding, but not responsive: The child works a LOT to meet the expectations, but will fail occasionally. Again, failure is the focus, and almost no support is given for dealing with the bad feelings coming from this.
  • Don't express much warmth or nurturing: The parents seem distant and uncaring to the child. And when even the parents don't seem to care, how will anyone ever care for you? If even your parents don't care about your feelings, why should you?
  • Utilize punishments with little or no explanation: The child is punished totally randomly, from the child's perspective. So, the child learns that the most important person in their life will randomly lash out at them. Also, the child has no chance to understand what it did wrong. How is a child to learn what a right decision is, and ever have any confidence in choices made?
  • Don't give children choices or options: You only get good at making decisions by practising. By getting better, you gain confidence to make them. If you never get to make any as a child, when will you learn?

So: when your parents make all the decisions for you, how are you supposed to have confidence in YOURS? You never made any! If your parents never taught you that mistakes and failures happen, how are you supposed to learn that, and, more importantly, how to a) deal with them properly and then b) move on, possibly hurt, but a bit wiser, and warned for the next time you encounter something similar?

Learning those skills when a wrong decision does not mean "I will walks home in wet clothes" but "I will loose my job"? Of course it will make the world a frightening place... one through which you cannot travel sure of yourself!

And self-discipline? You never disciplined yourself before, your parents did. Again.. no practice.

That is my take on this, at least, hope it helps :).

My view on low self-esteem:
It is hard to get a good self-esteem if you mostly hear that you did something wrong, that what you did was not good enough, that you should do more, which is something authoritarian parents tend to do. Learning to see value in what you did, even if it is NOT perfect (That table does not look perfect, but I built it MYSELF, for example) is something you start learning as a child, as well.
When you start learning an instrument, you will start out sounding terrible. But you get better... that is AMAZING, and WONDERFUL. Unless, of course, you are only told "You STILL get the last bit wrong!". Then, you don't get to feel great about the thing you did... only bad about the thing you did NOT.
Self-esteem comes, at least in big parts, from knowing you are good enough even when you are not perfect. From knowing you do not need to be perfect. You got better... so you feel good. You are not getting better any more? Well, that's ok, we all have a limit. And look: you started out with zero skill. Now you have some! It is THAT kind of thinking that was not learned in childhood... and now needs to be found, to get the self-esteem up. And that, again, is hard, if all you learned was the opposite.


there. As you know, authoritarian parents expects unconditional obedience from their children. Everything a child do, must be dictated or at least approved by parents. This is the main factor that causes lack of discipline and low self esteem in adult life. And why is it that way? Because having very clear borders set from the top authority deprives a child from making their own decisions. If there always were someone who told you what is wrong and what is right, it is very hard to become an independent and disciplined adult because of lack of external opinion of what you should do and what is the best to do at this moment. People raised by authoritarian parents are constantly hesitating in everyday decisions. I am one of them.

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    Wow, you have reminded me of my childhood. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 14:29
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    Sorry if i made some unpleasant memories hit you. It took me almost two years of therapy to see the corelation. Take care.
    – Visedre
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 16:56

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