Parents who adopt the authoritarian parenting style put together a set of rules which the children are expected to follow without exception. Children within these family environments have very little, if any part in solving issues, or addressing challenges and obstacles. Authoritarian parents expect that the children will follow the rules all the time.
If the children decide to challenge the rules, or ask why the rules are in place, they are usually given closed answers, and explanations such as ”because I said so.” Reasons for the rules are not normally given, and there is little room for children to negotiate the rules with the parent. Authoritarian parents may also use punishments instead of consequences.
Even though a child from an authoritarian household may tend to follow the rules, this form of parenting can still result in self-esteem issues.
Children from authoritarian households may become aggressive and angry with their parents when punished. Instead of focusing on how they can fix the problem, how to make amends, or how to resolve the situation, they will most likely focus on their anger towards their parents instead.
Authoritative parents use rules and boundaries to keep the children in line. However, these parents do allow for some exceptions to the rule, and will tend to be more lenient than authoritarian parents. They are likely to explain why the rules exist, and are more willing to consider their child’s feelings when setting limits.
Children in an environment where authoritative parenting techniques are used will most likely receive consequences for their behaviour, instead of punishment. Positive consequences are used to reinforce good behaviours.
Children raised with authoritative parents are given the opportunity to share their opinions about the rules. These children tend to be happy and successful. They will most likely be good at making decisions, and evaluating safety risks by themselves.
Children with authoritative parents often develop into responsible adults who are at ease with expressing their opinions.
Permissive parents are not big on discipline. They are extremely lenient, and will most likely only step in if their child is facing a serious problem. Permissive parents provide very few consequences for their children’s behaviour, because they are of the opinion that ‘children will be children.’
The role of the permissive parent is that of a friend, rather than an authoritative figure. However, these parents do encourage their children to discuss their problems. Although, the downside to permissive parenting is that a lot of bad behaviour is not discouraged.
Children who grow up with permissive parents can exhibit more behavioural problems than other children. Children from permissive environments are unlikely to be appreciative of authority and rules. Sadly, these children often have low-self esteem, and report a lot of sadness.
An uninvolved parent will tend to neglect their child. Their child’s basic needs are often not met – and the child is often expected to raise themselves. This can occur due to mental health issues, substance abuse, a lack of knowledge about parenting and child development, or through feeling overwhelmed by the problems in their life.
Uninvolved parents tend to have limited knowledge of what they are actually meant to be doing in regard to parenting their child. There tend to be few, if any real expectations or rules. Children may receive very little, if any guidance – and they usually always miss out on much needed parental attention.
Children from these environments often exhibit low self-esteem, and poor academic performance. They may also exhibit frequent behavioural problems, and be quite unhappy.
Parenting is difficult, and guilt provoking for self- aware parents at the best of times. However, for the punitive parent, I often wonder if guilt about their controlling behaviour even comes into play.
For the non-punitive parent who accidentally snapped at their son or daughter – the guilt drives them to apologise, make amends, accept responsibility, and to talk to the child about the incident.
Communication is open between parent and child. Children feel as though they can ask their parents questions, even in times of stress or difficulty.
The non-punitive parent will foster a communicative relationship with their children, where talking in order to resolve problems, instead of dishing out punishments loosely, becomes the way of the family unit.
However, from my experience as the silent witness to many a punitive parent – guilt doesn’t come into it for these people, awareness is no where to be seen, and apologies are rare.
It is difficult for non-punitive parents to understand how parents of a more controlling nature cannot see the obvious damage they are doing to their child’s mental health, emotional growth, and inner spirit. To punish and criticise a little person so harshly is incomprehensible.
Isn’t it everybody’s dream to have an everlasting relationship with their adult child? It is unlikely that an adult child with a full blown anxiety disorder, emotional issues, and low confidence is going to turn around and be grateful for punitive parents. Punitive parenting sets children up for a life time of insecurity and emotional struggle.
So, what is punitive parenting?
Punitive parenting is an un – empathetic, less emotionally supportive form of parenting. Through harsh comments, constant criticism, love withdrawal, harsh punishments and psychological control, the parent, without realising it, openly shows a lack of empathy, affection and support towards the child. The aim of punitive parenting is to induce shame, with the hope of gaining control over the child’s actions.
Parents following this method of parenting reward good behaviour, and shame negative behaviour. The tone is harsh, and children are often isolated with timeouts that are too long in time limit. The children of these parents are not reminded that child – hood is a journey that everybody goes on in order to learn, and to make mistakes along the way.
These children are expected to have an adult understanding of how to exhibit correct behaviour at a very young age.
The idea behind punitive parenting is ‘if I criticise you enough about your grades, and inform you about how much you are letting me down, you will make sure you go above and beyond to meet my needs as your parent.’
Punitive punishments are harsh, do not fit the crime, and aim to control the child, rather than meet the mental health needs of the child.
An example of a punitive punishment would be to confiscate the ipad for an entire week for back-chatting – when one afternoon of time out from the ipad would have gotten the message across.
Dishes for two weeks, cancelling camp, or refusing to allow a child to go on the adventure he or she has waited all year to arrive, are all examples of punitive punishment.
The consequences of punitive parenting:
The research paper ‘Parenting Behaviours, Adolescent Depressive Symptoms, and Problem Behaviour. The Role of Self-esteem and School Adjustment Difficulties Among Chinese Adolescents,’ (published in the Journal of family issues) by Cixin Wang and co-authors, discussed possible consequences of punitive parenting.
Cixin Wang and her co-authors ( Yan xia, Wenzhen Li, Stephen M.Wilson, Kevin Bush and Gary Peterson) surveyed 589 middle and high-school students in Hangzhou, China. The survey asked these children about how they perceived the behaviour of their parents, as well as their own adjustment to school, symptoms of depression and problematic behaviours.
Previous research has shown that Chinese parents do show less support through affection, and more support through governing and controlling their offspring.
The results from the current study show that the findings from this sample of Chinese parents surveyed, is consistent with those findings from studies involving western students. Previous research on cultures of the west has found that when parents exert strong psychological control over their children, it leads to low self -esteem and low grades amongst children.
Overall, the study implied that punitive parenting is not working amongst this particular group of Chinese students, which may of course give punitive parents from other cultures, as well as parents from the Chinese culture something to think about.