To Be, or Not to Be a Strict Parent? That is the Question
Parenting is the most important job a mother and fa
ther will have in their lifetime. Although everyone wants what’s best for their child, how do we know what type of discipline is best? Is strict parenting better than being permissive?
In this article, we give a detailed description of strict parenting, so everyone is clear on that meaning. Then, we present the pros and cons of what over 60 years of research has taught us about kids and parenting styles. The bottom line: What happens in childhood, doesn’t stay in childhood.
- What is a Strict Parenting Style?
- Is Being a Strict Parent Good or Bad?
- How Can a Teenager Cope with Super Strict Parents?
- If You are a Strict Parent — What Can You do Differently?
- Common Mistakes Caring Parents Make
What is a Strict Parenting Style?
Being a strict parent means setting high standards for your child and enforcing strict adherence. There is no discussion or negotiation with the child regarding the rules. Rules are set by the parents, not the child. When rules are broken, discipline is swift and unwavering.
This is called the Authoritarian parenting style by researchers that study children. For instance, Dr. Diana Baumrind, from the University of California, Berkeley was a pioneer in the study of how parenting styles affect a child’s development.
Her and other researchers have identified several main parenting styles:
Why are Parents Strict?
Some strict parents believe that being firm and demanding will produce a child that is well-behaved and independent. They often think that being a soft parent will make a soft child. So, being firm means raising a strong child. This is a kind of “tough love” mentality that many parents believe is best for their child.
For other strict parents, they don’t want to seem weak, so they overcompensate by being extra firm. This happens when a parent lacks confidence in their parenting skills. What parent hasn’t struggled with this feeling?
Then, there are parents that are super strict because they just don’t know any other way. That was the way they were raised, so, that’s what they do. Remember, no one hands mom and dad a baby manual at the hospital, so, we go with what we know.
What are the Signs of Strict Parenting?
Although every parent is different, there are some common denominators among super strict parents. For example:
- Strict parents often use harsh punishment, but provide very little explanation about the rationale and logic behind the rules.
- The punishment can seem unevenly matched to the infraction.
- There is usually no discussion, and if a child attempts to do so, the parent may see it as disrespecting their authority.
- Strict parents can be cold and unresponsive to the emotional needs of their child. They often believe that being comforting and supportive will lead to the child becoming soft and weak adults.
- The emotional tone of the relationship is negative. Even when discipline is not the topic of conversation, the household can’t be described as warm and loving.
Is Being a Strict Parent Good or Bad?
Well, that question is a little too simplistic. As Dr. Baumrind’s research has revealed, the situation is a little more complicated. There are two types of strict parenting; one is a bit overprotective, while the other is more balanced.
Being strict can have many benefits, but also a lot of disadvantages. If it is accompanied by a supportive and understanding dynamic between parent and child, it leads to a whole different behavioral profile.
Supportive means that parents explain the reasons for the rules and give their child an opportunity to express their opinion. The child feels respected in this kind of environment. When strict parenting is combined with respect and nurturing, it’s called the Authoritative parenting style.
What are the Effects of These Different Styles?
The two tables below summarize the results of hundreds of studies conducted over the last 50+ years by many very smart scientists.
|Authoritarian Parenting Style||Child’s Profile|
|Rules consistently enforced||Obedient and compliant when young,
but may become rebellious later
|Harsh punitive discipline||Socially and emotionally withdrawn;
sometimes prone to anger as adults
|Discussion and opinion not allowed||Low self-esteem and self-worth;
feelings of inadequacy
|Little explanation of punishment||Struggle with emotional regulation|
Although being strict can lead to a child being obedient if can also cause a child to have low self-esteem. This is because they have learned from their parents that their opinion has no value. In its extreme form, a lack of self-worth can lead to depression.
When children get a little older, they may become rebellious. They finally feel a sense of freedom, so they can take that too far.
Enduring years of harsh discipline can result in a lot of pent-up anger. That resentment has been growing for many years. So, when they are adults and the parents are not around to control them, that energy can be released in a lot of ways.
Children raised in this environment also struggle with forming deep emotional relationships with others. They have very little practice sharing their feelings and so when they enter adult romantic relationships, they may seem cold and distant.
However, combining strict parenting with sharing and caring produces a different personality profile.
|Authoritative Parenting Style||Child’s Profile|
|High but reasonable expectations||Achievement oriented|
|Fair and consistent discipline||Happy and cooperative disposition|
|Encourages discussion and sharing opinions||High self-esteem and self-worth;
feel respected and valued
|Clear explanations of punishment||Good at emotional regulation|
With the Authoritative parenting style, children develop higher self-esteem because they have learned that their opinion matters. When given clear explanations regarding the rules of the household, they learn to regulate and control their own emotions.
Authoritative parents also set high standards for their child. They expect them to achieve and work hard to accomplish their goals. But those goals are more realistic and the parents offer support when needed. They may provide some guidance or a little help here and there, but not so much that the child is not playing the central role.
Because the child gets practice sharing their feelings, it’s easier for them to form strong emotional bonds when they enter adult romantic relationships later in life. They are confident and open and show an accepting and caring attitude towards their partners.
Other Extreme: Is Being Completely Lenient a Good Idea?
The short answer here is: No. Being overly permissive means children never learn self-discipline. They never learn how to control their emotions and have a very difficult time dealing with rules when they become adults.
|Permissive Parenting Style||Child’s Profile|
|Almost no expectations||Low in achievement orientation|
|Inconsistent discipline||Trouble with authority figures|
|Allow emotional and behavioral freedom||Lack self-discipline and emotional regulation|
|Nurturing and loving||Happy when getting their way|
When nothing is expected of the child, they expect nothing of themselves. This results in a lack of focus and direction. These children are simply not motivated to succeed.
When discipline is inconsistent or non-existent, children never learn how to deal with not getting what they want. Later in life, they may have trouble complying with authority figures. That can be a huge disadvantage to a person’s career when they have to follow orders from a supervisor.
Permissive parents can provide a lot of love and care, but it looks more like a friendship than a parent-child relationship. This means children will be happy as long as they get what they want. When things don’t go their way, they can get very angry and lash out. Later in adult relationships, that makes for tumultuous times.
How Can a Teenager Cope with Super Strict Parents?
Life for a teenager is difficult enough, so dealing with overly strict parents can really make things tough. Still, there are a few habits a teenager can develop to help them cope:
- Realize that strict parenting usually comes from the heart. So, even though it might not seem like it, your parents do care about you a lot…more than you know.
- Sometimes we don’t form loving relationships with our parents until we are much older. It’s unfortunate, but this is the way life works sometimes. So, when you’re being scolded for all the wrong reasons, just remember, one day you can have the loving relationship you deserve.
- Remember how you feel today, and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes when you are a mother or father. It’s natural for us to automatically act the same as our parents when we get older, but it’s not written in stone. One day you will have a chance to form a great relationship with your child.
- Focus on your studies. Earning good grades and developing yourself intellectually can put you on the right path to becoming a successful adult. Studying will take your mind off your troubles.
- Find an outlet, a healthy outlet. The “healthy” part is important. Put your energy into a hobby or endeavor that touches your heart and soul. This will put your mind in the right place and give you something positive to look forward to.
Here are a few other tips to consider:
If You are a Strict Parent — What Can You do Differently?
The two most important things you can do are: start allowing your child to express their opinions, and try to have conversations with them about life, not about rules.
Teenagers are already having difficulties with hormones, and peer pressure, and lots of self-doubt about their appearance. That’s an opportunity for you. Even if you don’t think you have any fantastic words of wisdom, don’t worry. Just the act of listening and showing that you care will do wonders.
Find a hobby or activity that you can do together. You need to have experiences together that are positive and not so full of negativity. Camping, going on a bike ride in the park, going to garage sales, anything that doesn’t involve rules or exerting dominance will help the relationship take a turn in the right direction.
If you still find yourself struggling to modify, get some advice from a professional counselor. Oh no! A professional counselor? That sounds so serious. Well, it is, and it isn’t.
First of all, counselors act a lot like coaches. People get help from coaches all the time. Coaches have experience, they know a lot of ways to help people improve. Just like a professional athlete seeks the advice of a professional coach, a counselor can coach a parent.
You can contact your school’s counselor and they can probably provide you with some contact information for a couple of licensed professionals.
Have a few meetings with each and choose the one that you feel most comfortable with. Keep in mind, talking to a counselor is not a sign of some serious psychological problem. It’s a sign of a parent getting some coaching on how to think differently about parenting…nothing more than that.
Give the child more freedom and stop overprotecting them. Find out where they are and what is happening around them not through annoying calls and SMS, but through the Find My Kids app!
Common Mistakes Caring Parents Make
The unfortunate thing about life, is that it passes by so quickly. One minute you are in the moment, and the next minute is five years later. It sounds bizarre, but it is so very true.
Fortunately, now that you are aware of this fact of life, you might be able to make a few adjustments now before it’s too late.
There are a lot of mistakes that all parents make, even the ones that really seem to have their stuff together. So, take a look at this video about common mistakes that parents make.
It’s Never Too Late
First of all, remember this: It’s never too late. If you feel that you have been practicing the wrong parenting style, you can switch. It takes time, and the path will be a little bit rocky here and there, but it can be done.
You can do it and the result will be fantastic. There is nothing more rewarding that raising a happy, healthy child that will love you more than you can imagine.
Since we are not at the end of this super-great article on this super-serious matter, how about sharing your thoughts with the whole world? You have two options.
- Option A: Take a few moments to reflect, and then tell us in one or two sentences what you think you might regret about your parenting in the future.
- Option B: What is a good hobby or activity that a parent to do with their child that won’t be so stressful or involve the parent having to act so in-control?
Baumrind, D. (2013). Authoritative parenting revisited: History and current status. In R. E. Larzelere, A. S. Morris, & A. W. Harrist (Eds.), Authoritative parenting: Synthesizing nurturance and discipline for optimal child development (pp. 11–34). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/13948-002
Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the Context of the Family: Parent-Child Interaction. In M. Hetherington (Ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology (pp. 1-103). Wiley.
The picture on the front page: MillaF/Shutterstock.com
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