If you’re a parent, you’re aware that there are a variety of different styles and approaches to parenting, and no matter which one you subscribe to, you’re wrong in someone’s eyes. Some parents value respectful, compliant children, and that’s their main goal in parenting; others value a child with an individual personality who is free to make choices and make mistakes. These parents disagree with each other and find the other parent wrong simply because of what they value personally.
No matter what parenting style you choose, there is always going to be someone who disagrees with you. This doesn’t mean that they’re right—and unfortunately it doesn’t mean that you’re right either. Instead, it means that different parents value different things, and those values dictate how they parent. While there isn’t always a right or wrong way of parenting, per se, there are specific parenting styles that exist that can either contribute to the well-being, positive cognitive, physical and socioemotional development of children, or harm that development.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring 4 different parenting styles and how they affect children’s overall development. By the end of the four weeks, you’ll learn what fuels these styles of parenting, and also the developmental impact of these styles on the children (hint: the last part is the most important part when selecting a parenting style!).
We’ll start with the most traditional style of parenting that has been around the longest: Authoritarian Parenting.
This style of parenting is reminiscent of “the olden days” and is likely the style of parenting that living grandparents and great grandparents have. The Authoritarian Parenting style is a rigid style of parenting, where the adult establishes strict expectations for the child to fulfill, or else. The Authoritarian Parent expects a child to be respectful of adults, compliant with any and all demands given to them by adults, and have a strong work ethic at a young age. These parents establish rigid rules that must be followed, yet rarely explain why these rules are necessary or appropriate (have you ever heard a parent respond to their child’s “But why?” with “Because I said so!”). Typically, these parents use corporal (physical) punishment or rage towards a child as their main form of discipline whenever these rules have not been followed.
Some parents who subscribe to this mentality might be thinking, “What’s so wrong with teaching kids to respect authority and to be a hard worker?” The answer: nothing. Unfortunately, the Authoritarian Parenting Style has some great lessons for kids to learn—like respecting authority, complying with the directions given to them by safe adults, and having a strong work ethic—but since the only lesson is “do as I say or get spanked” the child isn’t learning how or why to respect authority, comply with adult directions, or to develop a strong work ethic.
While some children who are the recipients of Authoritarian Parenting end up being respectful, responsible, and hardworking members of society, most of them are fearful and anxious, less self-confident, and poor communicators. It’s common for children of this style of parenting to be more aggressive and use corporal punishment towards peers, because that’s how they’ve learned to express that someone has done something wrong. They are also more susceptible to abuse and neglect, as their only definition of the right thing to do is whatever an adult tells them to do.
As adults, children of the Authoritarian Parenting style are more likely to use aggression in their relationships, have lower levels of self-esteem, and in severe cases may even have a life-long problem with those in authority positions. For example, a child of an Authoritarian Parenting style may comply instantly with the requests of persons in authority, fear and avoid those in positions of authority, or become unable to complete essential job duties when those duties require the person to challenge a person he or she views to be in authority.
In summary, while some children of the Authoritarian Parenting Style do turn out to be hard working children who respect authority and the rules of society, many of them experience a significant detriment to their development due to being a recipient of this rigid and demanding parenting style. Because of this, the Authoritarian Parenting Style is not recommended by any parenting experts, theories of child development or educational models.
Much of the research shared in this article comes from this book by John Santrock
Up next: Neglectful/Uninvolved Parenting