There is a strong view that strict parenting is the answer to producing disciplined, well-mannered children in our society. But can a parent be too strict? And what should be the approach? Research studies on discipline consistently show that strict child-raising actually produces kids with lower self-esteems who behave worse than kids who grow up under a different parenting style. Strict parenting actually creates behavioural problems in children.
Authoritarians: Strict Parents
Strict parents also called authoritarians, are usually adult-centred and militant. They lack the basic ‘know-how’ of child-centredness and age appropriateness. Their child-rearing practices are grounded in rules, standards, and maintaining control. This uncompromising approach is usually a rehash of how their own parents handled them. Affection, acceptance, and approval are conditional and used as rewards for adhering to rules. Children are taught to obey their parents and are usually well-behaved around them but act differently around others. Fear and punishment are go-to methods for discipline when a child does not adhere to or meet their expectations.
A child’s first role model
Regardless of your parenting style, children observe and model the behaviours of their parents or adults around them. When is child is born into a family, parents become the first teachers. How they treat their child is quite often the way that child will treat everybody else. Sounds simple but embedded in there is a fixed behavioural pattern. No child is born a bully. No child is born depressed. No child is born defiant. These behaviours are adapted or they are the result of a recurring action. The reality is, if a parent uses power/force and fear to get their child to do what he or she wants, they inadvertently teach their child to do the same.
The need for self-regulation
Strict parents rarely allow their children to self-regulate. According to psychology author J.L. Cook, Self–regulation refers to an individual’s ability to monitor and control his/her own behaviour, emotions, or thoughts, altering them in accordance with the demands of the situation. Self-regulation is one of the most challenging aspects of a child’s emotional development. While every child needs clear boundaries, and rules and expectations help parents to do so, children should be allowed to explore within the safety of those boundaries. When a child develops a trusting relationship with adults, in a caring, supportive environment, he or she will feel safe to self-regulate. Once a child has developed this skill he or she will become more focused and confident; the fear of failure or disapproval will be better managed. They will communicate more and act out less.
What are the common objectives we as parents share? Is it not to raise our children to be well-rounded and socially adjusted individuals? If a child is to achieve and maintain a holistic state of being, parents are required to nurture his or her physical, mental, emotional, social and moral/spiritual domains. These domains are equally important and require equivalent attention if they are to produce a child that is functional, independent and a productive member of society. If this is not the main focus of your parenting then perhaps you should ask yourself why. So what is the best way?
If you have been raising children using the authoritarian style with little or no success (success being how adjusted your children are), then adopting the Assertive parenting style might be helpful. This type of parenting finds the middle ground between the aggressive parent and the pushover. These parents are willing to listen and still hold firm so that their needs and the needs of the child are met. According to research, this style is most successful because “it uses a healthy balance of both nurture and structure. It raises your child’s self-esteem because you communicate that your child is lovable and loved and worthy of respect.”