Strict Parenting: Why is it not the ideal form of parenting?
Despite popular belief, studies show that strict parenting does not usually lead to better-behaved children. In fact, studies on discipline demonstrate that kids brought up in a strict, or authoritarian household often have lower self-esteem and may have behavioral issues –– and are thus punished more frequently! When parents constantly express disapproval of their child, the child’s most emotionally charged reaction is often to act out their hurt and resentment through some form of rebellion.
Parents put safety measures and boundaries in place to keep kids out of harm’s way, but without open communication, they may unintentionally encourage their kids to engage in even more risky behavior. While strict parents may think they’re doing what’s best for their children, a lack of communication when setting strict rules can damage the honesty and trust in a parent-child relationship.
What is strict parenting?
Strict or authoritarian parents tend to focus more on obedience, discipline, and control than on nurturing their children. Mistakes are usually punished harshly, and when feedback is given, it’s often negative. Yelling and corporal punishment are also standard. Authoritarian parents punish children for failures while ignoring their achievements. They expect the child not to make mistakes and to obey them.
Effects of having strict parents – how they encourage rebellion
Parents who are strict with their children most likely do not mean to hurt them. In fact, their intentions are usually good. They may see themselves as setting high standards that will help the child in the present and future. They may also believe that their constant criticisms are constructive and educational. They believe they are mentoring the child, rather than criticizing them so that the child will not make the same mistakes or behave in ways that will prevent them from growing.
However, this method often takes a different turn. Parents’ aspirational intentions can make the child feel like they are not good enough—that there is something wrong with them and that they will never be able to meet parental expectations. This leaves the child feeling hurt, disappointed, discouraged, and unworthy – which is an understandable reaction that can lead to feelings of rejection, hopelessness, and abandonment. All these feelings mixed together happen to form the perfect recipe for chronic, low-grade depression and other mental health issues.
As an alternative reaction to these quite possibly intolerable feelings, the child may lash out in what is known as rebellion, or “retaliatory anger.” Such contradiction can contribute to what may seem offensive but is really a desperate approach to defend their emotions, reactions of anger, and aggression which may also be understood as “acting out”.
How to be firm without being strict
Such an approach is generally understood as “authoritative parenting”. Parents who were observed to be authoritative were firm, yet warm in their communication. Besides that, they practiced reasonable control in the form of explaining rules, discussing, and reasoning. They often modeled caring and self-controlled behavior, which, in turn, allowed children to develop emotion regulation skills and social skills. Subsequent studies on the subject too showed that children raised with this form of parenting can manifest the effective principles for emotional and behavioral regulation.
It’s important to remember that parenting isn’t always easy. Being firm is a skill that takes practice to get better at. And, like any art form, parenting takes basic techniques and then experimentation with improvisations. The best way to approach parenting is to acknowledge that it involves learning new skills, oftentimes as you go. While addressing routine trouble spots, parents should try to identify a variety of responses that can be delivered with compassion and creativity.
10 tips to adopt an authoritative approach
- Be a good listener – give your child positive attention that significantly prevents potential behavior problems.
- Spend time & talk with them – the simple interactions provide them with the warmth and empathy they need.
- Praise their achievements – children need praise to feel confident and assured. Without it, they would struggle to feel successful.
- Encourage healthy discussion – welcome different points of view to respect your child’s thinking process and values.
- Respect their privacy – let them know you’re always available for support, while still allowing them to keep things to themselves.
- Give them autonomy – they need the autonomy to make mistakes and learn from them. With autonomy, your child knows you believe in their abilities.
- Teach them how to improve – give your child constructive feedback to help them become the best version of themselves.
- Let them make their choices– this empowers kids and will prepare them to make bigger decisions later in life.
- Mistakes are learning opportunities – don’t scold them; help them learn to do better the next time.
- Trust them – show them you trust them to make the best choices for themselves. Course-correct if they happen to go off-path.
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