- Are strict parents better?
- What are the signs of strict parents?
- What happens when a parent is too strict?
- What’s the best parenting style?
- What happens if a parent isn’t strict?
- How strict should I be?
Do you ever catch yourself saying something your mum or dad used to say and wonder, ‘when did I become my parents?’ The truth is, we’re all hard-wired to reflect our own upbringing in one way or another. You’ll undoubtedly have opinions on how strict parents should be, often based on your own childhood experience. So, is it good to have strict parents?
Are strict parents better?
To answer this question, we need to think about the different ways that people approach discipline. When psychologists talk about parenting, they often refer to four particular types of parent: authoritarian parents, authoritative parents, indulgent/permissive parents and uninvolved/neglectful parents.
When studies are carried out analysing parenting styles and their consequences, researchers often look at how responsive and how demanding each type of parent has been. How responsive a parent is often refers to how much they react to their child’s needs. How demanding a parent is usually means how much they expect from their child in terms of their behaviour.
What are the signs of strict parents?
When people talk about very strict parents they often mean authoritarian parents. (Think Captain Von Trapp before he met Maria in The Sound of Music.) One of the key signs of authoritarian parents is that they are very demanding but not very responsive.
These strict mothers and fathers have very clear and fixed rules that they expect their children to follow without any room for negotiation or explanation. They control every aspect of their children’s lives and use threats and punishments to make their children behave in a certain way. Authoritarian parents are often regarded as cold and lacking empathy when dealing with their children.
What happens when a parent is too strict?
This type of very strict authoritarian parenting may seem to create well-behaved, compliant children from a very orderly home - but it comes at a cost. Researchers have found that there are several negative effects of strict parenting.
Strict parent effects:
- Studies have shown that a lack of warmth and connection between parent and child can negatively affect emotional development.
- Children raised by authoritarian parents may have low self-esteem and struggle with anxiety or depression.
- Outside of their home, children of very strict parents can find it difficult to socialise and may not know how to manage their own anger.
- Experts claim that if you are too strict with children, it can encourage them to lie as they are scared to tell the truth.
- As all their decisions are often made for them, children of authoritarian parents may not be very good at making choices and this can lead to them taking unnecessary risks.
- Having to follow a strict parent’s rules and regulations without room to think for themselves can also limit a child’s creativity.
- Most worrying of all, after growing up with strict parents who are very authoritarian, children may feel that receiving love is dependent on them being obedient and successful.
When you look at this list, it’s clear that authoritarian parenting does more harm than good.
What’s the best parenting style?
It’s easy to confuse authoritarian and authoritative parents based on the name alone but in reality, they’re worlds apart. As the clinical and developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind pointed out, “Authoritative parents are both responsive and demanding”. This approach is usually seen as the healthiest. Authoritative parents expect certain things from their children but they also respond to their needs.
Authoritative parents still set clear rules that they expect their kids to follow, but the difference is that they discuss these rules openly and help their children to follow them instead of simply punishing them harshly every time they break them. They keep a close eye on how their children are doing and think of them as individuals with their own rights and needs. Authoritative parents can see that their children need to experience love and warmth in order to become confident and independent in their own choices.
The result of authoritative parenting is, as you might expect, more positive. Children who grow up in this kind of environment have fewer social and behavioural problems due to a more secure and stable attachment with their parents. Research shows that they are often more independent and academically successful and more able to observe and understand their own emotions. In the long term, they are also less likely to abuse drugs as they enter adulthood.
What happens if a parent isn’t strict?
Indulgent parents (often called permissive parents)
These are parents that are very responsive but not at all demanding. They avoid confrontation with their children and don’t have many expectations of them in terms of achievement or behaviour.
This type of parent may be reacting to their own very strict or authoritative upbringing by going the opposite way. They may say yes to every one of their child’s demands no matter how inconvenient or unreasonable. However, by agreeing to a child’s every whim, instead of feeling loved, the child may actually feel a little lost. Many children need boundaries and prefer to know what is expected of them in order to feel safe.
You only need to think of Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to see the other negative effects of this type of parenting. Without clear boundaries or expectations, children of indulgent parents can, in short, get away with anything and may not be very pleasant for other people to be around. In fiction and in real life, the child that behaves like a spoiled brat doesn’t usually attract the best circle of friends.
Uninvolved parents (also called neglectful parents)
Uninvolved parents are neither demanding nor responsive, perhaps due to their own parent problems. These parents step so far back from their children that it may appear that they don’t really care at all. In extreme cases, they might actually reject or neglect their children who, unfortunately, will most likely struggle to thrive as a result.
How strict should I be?
While it’s good to understand what these different labels mean, it’s also wise to remember that no person is ever just one thing. Putting people in boxes doesn’t always work. It’s important not to be limited by labels and categories as you have the ability to change and react to what’s happening around you. For example, if you’re usually more of an authoritative parent, you might find that you temporarily switch to being more authoritarian when you’re under time pressure or trying to avoid immediate danger. Equally, when your little one is under the weather, being more indulgent may be exactly what they need.
Regardless of the reason behind them, setting rules and regulations is often about making someone bend to another person’s will. And forcing rules on someone else without negotiation, cooperation or explanation can feel like a dictatorship.
As renowned child psychotherapist Philippa Perry says, “consistently imposing your will on your child is neither the best way to nurture morality or cooperation, nor is it a good way to have a good relationship with them.” Her answer is collaboration, which involves discussing problems and finding solutions together – showing flexibility instead of sticking blindly to predetermined rules just for the sake of it.
The collaborative approach that Philippa Perry recommends involves the following steps:
- Name/define the problem. (E.g. Your child won’t do their English homework.)
- Explore the feelings behind it. (E.g. They find it too difficult and don’t know where to start.)
- Acknowledge and validate the feelings. (E.g. Discuss what it means to feel overwhelmed by something being too difficult. Acknowledge that they find this type of exercise hard and that’s okay.)
- Think of solutions together. (E.g. Agree to go through the questions together and make sure they understand what’s being asked of them in the homework task. Discuss the task out loud together before putting pen to paper.)
- Follow through on what you’ve agreed and go over any steps if you need to.
When kids play up or push your buttons, it’s hard not to clam up and invoke the ‘I’m the adult, you’re the child’ perspective. It’s at times like these, when they’re pushing boundaries and challenging you, that you might find yourself saying the things your parents did or doing the opposite of what your parents would do.
You are often your best resource so when you hear a tell-tale phrase or find yourself acting in a way that you don’t understand, just check in with your inner child. If you’re parroting your own parents, how did you feel when they said this particular phrase and what did it achieve if anything? If you’re acting in a way that seems to be a knee-jerk response, are you trying hard not to be your parents, and if so, why?
Reflecting on your own childhood experience can be joyful, uncomfortable and even liberating – but, just like parenting, it involves a bit of work. We know you’re always trying to build something as a parent, to improve on what you already have. How strict you are with your kids isn’t simply about making them behave in a certain prescriptive way, but about the emotional and problem-solving skills that you equip them with for life.
If your child needs extra support in a particular subject at school, why not consider a tutor. GoStudent tutors are here to support you and your children as they grow academically. Choose from our expert tutors and schedule your free trial session today.