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Emperor syndrome: bossy, aggressive and authoritarian children

Emperor syndrome: bossy, aggressive and authoritarian children

January 28, 2024

Changes in the sociocultural and labor environment of recent decades have been paving the way for the emergence of some dysfunctional behaviors in children.

One of the sets of attitudes and behaviors that most concern parents is that of the child who becomes the undisputed master of the family , subjecting the other members of the family to their demands and whims.

Do you know the Emperor's syndrome'?

Educational psychologists have already called Emperor syndrome to the 'emperors' children, who choose what food to cook, where the family will travel to spend the holidays, the television network that is watched at home, the hours to go to sleep or to carry out different activities, etcetera.

In professional contexts, the Emperor Syndrome is called Defiant Opposition Disorder (TOD).

To achieve their purposes, they shout, threaten and physically and psychologically attack their parents. It could be said that its maturational level in the field of empathy (That ability to put yourself in the other person's skin) is underdeveloped. For this reason it seems that they are not able to experience feelings such as love, guilt, forgiveness or compassion.

Entering the mind of the authoritarian child

This phenomenon has received the name of 'Emperor Syndrome', since the emperors children establish behavioral and interpersonal guidelines for privilege their whims and demands above the authority of their parents or guardians. Who does not abide by the imperatives of the child is the victim of scandalous tantrums and even assaults.

The violence that children exercise towards their parents, learning to control them psychologically, results in getting them to obey and comply with their wishes. This characteristic in the personality of children has also received the word "sons dictators", because of the incontestable domain they exercise in the family.


Children emperors are easily distinguishable: they tend to show personality traits characteristic of self-centeredness and have a thin frustration tolerance : they do not conceive that their demands are not met. These features do not go unnoticed in the family environment, much less in school, where their demands can be less satisfied.

They are children who have not learned to control themselves or regulate their own feelings and emotions. They have the expertise to know the weaknesses of their parents, who end up manipulating based on threats, aggressions and fickle arguments.


Although some researches have tried to elucidate the genetic causes of this syndrome, the truth is that there is a great consensus among the scientific community about the fact that Emperor Syndrome has causes of psychosocial origin . In this way, the decisive influence of the change in the labor and social model is pointed out, a factor that affects the quantity and quality of the time that parents can dedicate to their children.

Many educational psychologists and psycho-pedagogues have emphasized that one of the nurturing factors that can lead to the child acquiring behavioral patterns of Emperor Syndrome is the short time for parents to educate and establish standards and limits to their offspring. The economic needs and the unstable labor market do not offer the tutors the time and space necessary for the upbringing, causing an educative style of type blaming, and being prone to consent and overprotect the children.

It is also observed in these children a lack of Affective family habits , neglecting the need to play and interact with children. Socially, one of the problems that serves as a breeding ground for egocentric behavior childish is the ultrapermissive attitude of adults towards children.

  • You may be interested in reading this post: "10 strategies to improve the self-esteem of your child"

Differentiating between Authority and Authoritarianism

The educational style prevailing decades ago was based on the authoritarianism : parents who shouted, who dictated orders and exercised punitive control over the behavior of their children. In a way for fear of falling back into that style that many suffered in their own flesh, the current educational style has turned to the opposite extreme: ultrapermisivity .

That is why it is important to remember that authority is not the same as authoritarianism: parents must exercise a controlled and intelligent degree of authority, in a healthy way and adapting to the educational and evolutive needs of each child.

The culture of anything goes: the ethics of hedonism and consumerism

When we talk about education and educational styles for our children, we must remember the crucial influence of the moral values of society as a whole, since this superstructural form of shared ethics will encourage certain vices and / or virtues in the child's attitude.

The consumer culture current heraldism and the need for leisure and promptness as inalienable values. This clashes with any kind of internal or external imposition of responsibility over one's actions and the culture of effort. If these values ​​are not well managed and redirected, the child wrongly learns that his right to have a good time or to do what he pleases can go beyond the right of others to be respected, and they lose the notion that rewards require a previous effort

Education in family and school

The hesitant parents who exercise a passive and lax education , neglect to establish frames of reference for the behavior of the children, always allowing them to reply, giving in to their blackmail and being victims of verbal and physical aggressions.

The educational system is saturated too. While parents have already yielded all their authority, teachers are in the position to set limits to children who have been educated to disobey them and challenge them to meet their demands. It happens that the teachers who try to establish norms receive the disapproval and the complaints of the parents, who do not allow anyone to exercise any authority over their children. This reinforces and strengthens the child emperor in his attitude.

The child emperor in adolescence

In the stage of adolescence, the emperor children have consolidated their behavioral and moral guidelines , being unable to conceive some kind of external authority that imposes certain limits. In the most serious cases, they may attack their parents, a complaint being widely reported in police stations and increasingly frequent. In fact, it is the mothers who bear the brunt, who suffer, comparatively, a higher proportion of aggression and abuse from their children.

Building good education since childhood

The professionals of psychology, psycho-pedagogy and mental health agree that it is essential to build solid foundations in the education of children. In order to educate healthy, free and responsible children, adolescents and adults, it is necessary not to give up put clear limits , allow children to experience some degree of frustration so they can understand that the world does not revolve around their ego, and to inculcate little by little the culture of effort and respect towards other people. Only then can they tolerate frustration, commit to their goals and strive to achieve their goals, becoming aware of the value of things.

For more information on practical tips to avoid having an emperor son, we have recently published this article:

  • "The 8 basic tips for not spoiling your child"

A psychologist talks about Emperor Syndrome

Vicente Garrido , prisologist and criminologist from the University of Valencia, offers his professional vision about tyrant children in a complete interview at EiTB.

Bibliographic references:

  • Aitchison, J. (1992). The articulated mammal. Introduction to Psycholinguistics. Madrid: Editorial Alliance.
  • Bruner, J. (1997). Education, culture door. Madrid: Learning Viewer.
  • Burman, E. (1998). The deconstruction of evolutionary psychology. Madrid.
  • García Galera, Mª del C. (2000). Television, violence and childhood. The impact of media.
  • Kimmel, D.C. and Weiner, I.B. (1998). Adolescence: a transition of development. Barcelona: Ariel.
  • Piaget, J. (1987). The moral judgment of the child. Barcelona: Martinez Roca.
  • Pinker, S. (2001). The instinct of language. Madrid: Editorial Alliance.

Only child (January 2024).

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