What is authoritarian parenting?
Many well-meaning parents believe they're doing what's best for their kids by setting strict limits and rigidly enforcing them. While you may force your children to comply temporarily, over-strict parenting creates behavior problems. Authoritarian parenting is associated with negative outcomes.
Authoritarian parenting is strict. These parents are "because I said so" types. They aren't open to discussion or hearing their child's point of view. Authoritarian parents tend to:
- Expect children to follow orders without question
- Feel that obedience equals love
- Shut down open communication
- Have strict rules that children must obey
- Punish children harshly
- Withhold affection and warmth
- Be very demanding of children
Consequences of strict parenting
Authoritarian parents expect their children to follow their rules with no questions or discussion. They punish children harshly for failure to comply. This type of parenting can be physically and emotionally abusive. While having boundaries and expectations of your children is healthy, rules have to be balanced with warmth and respect for your child as well. Children of parents who are too strict may have some of the following issues:
A study of college students found that those whose parents were more authoritarian had low self-esteem. They had more behavioral problems and showed less initiative and persistence than students whose parents weren't so strict.
Strict, controlling parents are more likely to raise children who are disrespectful and delinquent. Ironically, children whose parents "lay down the law" don't see their parents as legitimate authority figures. Because of this, they're less likely to follow their rules and more likely to participate in delinquent behavior.
Children of authoritarian parents are more likely both to be bullied and to be bullies. They have lower self-esteem and are easier targets for bullies. They are more likely to be bullies because they see that behavior modeled at home.
A study of 600 children aged 8 to 10 showed that those with authoritarian parents have the most conduct problems. They demonstrate more defiant behavior, hyperactivity, aggression, and antisocial behavior. They also have more emotional problems and show fewer prosocial behaviors.
Problems with Self-Regulating
A University of Georgia study found that children whose parents are strict are more likely to act out. They are also less able to self-regulate and solve problems once they are older. When children are young, their parents have more ability to enforce guidelines. As the children reach adolescence they haven't learned to regulate their own behavior. They don't have the skills to effectively problem-solve on their own.
Preschoolers with authoritarian parents are 35% more likely to be obese than their peers. School-aged children with authoritarian parents are 41% more likely to be obese than children with authoritative parents.
What is the best parenting style?
Authoritative parents seem to be more successful than authoritarian parents. Authoritative parents have high expectations for children, set limits, but are warm and nurturing. This style of parenting has been linked to many positive outcomes for children.
What Authoritative Parents Do
When parenting children, authoritative parents:
- Have reasonable and age-appropriate expectations
- Help children develop coping skills instead of just punishing
- Help children learn to manage frustration and hurtful situations
- Encourage children to be independent
- Encourage open communication
- Model appropriate behavior for children
- Adapt to different circumstances
- Listen to their children
- Set consistent boundaries
Benefits of Authoritative Parenting
Though authoritative and authoritarian parenting may sound similar, they have vastly different outcomes. Children of authoritative parents tend to:
- Have a close relationship with their parents
- Be self-confident and have high self-esteem
- Manage their aggression well
- Be responsible and cooperative
- Be socially responsible
- Be happier, more successful, and more capable
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Child Abuse and Neglect: "Parenting behavior and the risk of becoming a victim and a bully/victim: a meta-analysis study."
INTEGRIS HEALTH: "How Parents Affect Their Child's Mental Health."
Journal of Adolescence: "Don't trust anyone over 30: Parental legitimacy as a mediator between parenting style and changes in delinquent behavior over time."
Journal of Child and Family Studies: "Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept."
Journal of Clinical Child Psychology: "Parenting Practices and Child Disruptive Behavior Problems in Early Elementary School."
MSU Extension: "Authoritarian parenting style," "Authoritative parenting style."
Preventative Medicine: "Parenting style and obesity risk in children."
UGA Today: "Strict parenting may cause adolescents to act out."
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