The history of authoritative parenting
In the 1960’s, child psychologist Diana Baumrind identified three styles of parenting when working with, and thoroughly engaging with pre-school aged children. The authoritative parenting style was recognised by Baumrind as the democratic approach to parenting. Baumrind further noted that this style of parenting is child – centred, and offers a high level of emotional availability to the child.
Hence, why children raised by authoritative parents have strong self-regulation skills, are very self assured, and appear to be very happy.
Children with authoritative parents
Why such good results?
Children with authoritative parents are given reasonable demands and high levels of responsiveness. These parents are emotionally available, and willing to put their all into providing their children with the resources to enable them to be well-equiped, successful individuals in both childhood and adulthood.
Main characteristics of the authoritative parenting style
A moderate method of parenting
The authoritative parent is moderate in their approach to parenting. They are neither black nor white, this way or that way. Instead, they apply a middle of the road, middle – ground approach to parenting -whereas the authoritarian parenting style is too hard, and the permissive parenting style is too soft.
They allow for high standards, expect mature, co-operative behaviour, provide their child with a lot of nurture and responsiveness; as well as respect for the child as a seperate, independent human being with their own thoughts and beliefs.
Children brought up with authoritative parents are showered with love and warmth – as well as boundaries, consequences and consistency. Hence, why it is claimed that the authoritative parenting style is the most effective style of parenting for children.
Research suggests that having at least one authoritative parent can make a big difference. In fact, it is further claimed that children from authoritative households are less likely to experience episodes of depression, and anxiety related conditions. They are also more unlikely to exhibit anti – social traits including delinquency and drug use.
The differences between authoritative parenting, permissive parenting and authoritarian parenting
Authoritative parents allow for a lot of flexibility, are in tune with democracy, and will discuss the rules with their children, the reason for the rules, and the importance of consequences. They may even make changes to the rules if they see the need to in the future. Unlike authoritarian parents, authoritative parents do not shame their children.
Discipline is approached with empathy, emotional availability, and kindness. If the child has something to say, they are given the opportunity. When an authoritative parent disciplines their child they take into account all the finer details involved in the problem that took place.
The permissive parent rarely disciplines their child, gives them too much room to move, and allows their child to behave to extremes.
In contrast, the authoritarian parent over disciplines, oppresses the child’s right to say how they feel, or to ask questions, and applies little empathy to the discipline process.
The aim of the authoritative parent is to encourage their child to utilise reasoning, to look within, and to work independently.
Understanding why the authoritative parenting style works
The authoritative parent acts as a role model, and exhibits the same behaviour that they expect from their child. The consistent rules and discipline which follow allow the child to know what to expect from their parents.
The child eventually models back to the parent the good emotional understanding and control that they were taught by their parents.
Authoritative parents are not controlling. They allow their children to be independent beings. This teaches their children that they are completely capable of accomplishing their goals without their parents always looking over their shoulder. The trust that the authoritative parent has in their own children to manage on their own, helps to foster good self-esteem and self- confidence.
The effects of the authoritative parenting style
Child development experts generally identify the authoritative parenting style as the best approach to parenting. Children raised by authoritative parents tend to be more capable, happy and successful.
Permissive parents, like authoritative parents, are loving, kind, and emotionally responsive to their children’s needs and wishes. Both parenting types discuss with their children important decisions and the rules within the family system.
Studies link Parental warmth and sensitive, responsive parenting with secure attachments and fewer behavioural problems.
However, the offical psychological definition of permissiveness concerns parental control, rather than the soft, empathetic nature associated with emotionally responsive parenting.
Permissive parenting is often referred to as indulgent parenting. These parents have low expectations for self-control, emotional regulation, and maturity. They are non-traditional, lenient, and rarely discipline their children.
Because there are few rules, expectations and demands, children raised by permissive parents tend to struggle with self-regulation and control.
These parents present themselves to the child as a friend rather than an authority figure. They avoid direct confrontation, or asserting overt power – and they prefer to use methods of reasoning and manipulation to get what they want from their child.
Characteristics of the permissive parenting style
May use bribery, such as toys, gifts and food as a means of getting the child to behave.
Effects of permissive parenting
Children raised by permissive parents:
Understanding permissive parenting
Permissive parenting is characterised by a lack of demands and expectations. This means that children coming from these environments may be less academically motivated than their peers, may find it difficult to adhere to rules, and may struggle with authority figures.
Children with permissive parents do not have consistent boundaries. Sometimes the parent will give into the child’s desire, and on other occasions they won’t. This lack of consistency leaves the child confused and lacking in boundaries.
Children with permissive parents often lack good social skills. They may be confident in conversing with other people. However, they may struggle with indifference, confrontation, sharing, or being corrected by other children. If a child has never been challenged on their behaviour by their parent, it is unlikely they will take well to being challenged by their peers in their childhood, or adult life.
What is the authoritarian parenting style? And, what is the overall effect of the authoritarian style of parenting on children?
Definition: Authoritarian parenting is characterised by parents who tip the scale in regard to demanding-ness, and rate low on the scales when it comes to responsiveness/ supportiveness.
The authoritarian parenting style is a strict form of parenting where the children are expected to adhere to very strict rules. There is either little or no input from the child with regard to the rules. This form of parenting does not foster a relationship with the child which is based on communication, or give and take.
Another way to describe the authoritarian parent is as an ‘army officer.’ Army officer’s lack warmth, have a general lack of interest in developing emotionally intimate relationships, and dish out harsh punishments for breaking the rules.
Like the army officer, the authoritarian parent believes that they are the one in charge in their household. The children know at a very young age that they must conform to the rules their parents have put in place – without question or exception. These parents tend to be overly critical of their children if their expectations aren’t met.
Like soldiers, the children often feel that their relationship with their parent is lacking in relation to emotional connection and affection.
Standards of behaviour are extremely high in these families, and complete obedience is high on the list of objectives.
The general consensus is that authoritarian parents rule with an iron fist. Their overall desire is to have complete psychological control over their children.
Consequences for breaking the rules:
Forms of punishment such as smacking and yelling are used with young children to ensure ‘complete obedience’.
The aim of punishing the child is to gain complete psychological control. This is often achieved when the authoritarian parent shames their child, withdraws affection from their child, inflicts the silent treatment, or with – holds their love.
The problem with authoritarian parenting
There are many problems with authoritarian parenting. However, one of the major problems with authoritative parenting is that children brought up in these environments will most likely be affected in many areas of their life, well into adulthood.
The child/ parent relationship will most likely become greatly affected in the authoritarian environment when the child realises that their opinions and values are not respected by their parents.
Children in the authoritarian environment may also become overwhelmingly afraid of making mistakes – mainly through fear of hardline punishments.
This could lead to further problems in their adult life where intimate relationships are concerned, and may also create problems in the workplace. In these areas of their life, these adults (who were once under authoritarian reign) may resort to people pleasing and perfectionism. Or, they may simply live their adult life in fear of failure.
When we make a mistake in life, a consequence is the natural result of that mistake. When children are given consequences for their behaviour, they are given the opportunity to reflect upon their behaviour – and they are also encouraged to use their problem solving skills.
On the other hand, punishments can create resentment and anger, rather than the emotional space to reflect, which is naturally derived from being given consequences.
Anger and resentment can result for children who have grown up in authoritarian households – as well as rebellious behaviour, power struggles between parent and child, and a general dislike of people in positions of authority.
Issues which may result for children living in the authoritarian family environment:
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.