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Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The problems with strict parenting

Parents often want the best for their children, but good intentions don't always lead to a positive outcome. Developmental psychologists have classified parenting styles into four categories: authoritarian (being too strict), permissive/indulgent (being too lenient), authoritative (just right), and neglectful (barely around).

I would imagine/hope that the majority of people are raised with authoritative parenting styles; parents who are firm but fair, want their children to be happy and independent individuals who can manage their lives, but who may clash with their children and contain views that their kids may view as unfair at the time.

Authoritative parenting = least likely to
use illegal drugs. 
It is not uncommon for the younger generation to view the ways of the older generation as 'outdated', relating to all kinds of areas. For example, your parent's generation may have placed a high value on going to university, but nowadays more young people are choosing not to attend university and to instead seek out work experience, apprenticeships, start their own businesses or spend more time figuring out what to do with their lives. (No doubt the atrocious cost of going to university has contributed to more young people opting out).

I certainly wouldn't class my parents as having been strict or controlling; naturally there are always things a younger person will view as unfair regarding their parents such as not letting them stay out at certain times or engage in certain activities. As a young adult having more perspective on my teen years I would say my parents were normal and reasonable overall in the way in which they were with my brother and I. This shows in the way I am now; had I been raised in a more extreme environment - too lenient or too controlling - I would be a lot less grounded and free-thinking as an individual.

Such is the problem of 'helicopter parenting.' Research has shown that children who were raised with parents who tried to control most aspects of their lives are more likely to have relationship problems, mental health issues and lower self-esteem in adulthood. They are less likely to make informed, well-thought out decisions on what to do with their lives, less likely to trust people, less likely to take responsibility for their lives due to always having been told what to do, and more likely to repress certain emotions and creative expression. (And if you include physical abuse such as constant hitting/spanking, research shows there is little to no benefit in hitting young children and that it teaches them physical violence is a fine way to get what you want, and it instils fear and submission rather than fair and balanced discipline).

Likewise, permissive parenting also has its issues. While parents who are more lenient with their children may be more loving and warm, they also do more damage due to not enforcing boundaries and teaching their children about responsibility or discipline. These types of parents may 'spoil' their children, thinking that giving them everything is the best way for them to show their love. However, these children tend to become entitled, and engage in risky or delinquent behaviour due to not learning about consequences of certain behaviours. Instead of 'spare the rod and spoil the child', it's 'spare the rational discipline and spoil the child.' 

But back to strict parenting. In Asian countries such as China, authoritarian parenting is common. Asian-Americans tend to outperform other ethnic groups in America when it comes to school work, and are more likely to attend the best universities and achieve higher grades then their peers. In the UK, many foreign students also hail from Asian countries. But while this seems excellent on the surface, the cost to emotional wellbeing is appalling. These children are raised with parenting styles that are reward-based and emotionally manipulative, employing tactics that deprive their children of playdates, social activities or mealtimes if they do not perfect a piece of music or a Maths paper.

Moreover, setting high expectations and demands is linked with poorer self-esteem as no matter how well you achieve something, you will never be satisfied due to thinking that you can always do better. 'I got an A but it wasn't an A*. I got an A* but it was 98% not 100%.' The bar for success ends up being raised higher and higher, so that the person is never going to be content with what they have, and will never think they are good enough because their self-worth is tied to their level of achievement rather than unconditional self-love and acceptance.

The best way to be! Thanks Mum, hehe. 
This is an enormously unhealthy way to live and to view yourself, and is a poor way to raise a child. So why are there parents out there that continue to raise their children in these ways? Research into mental health wellbeing and developmental psychology is still advancing and continues to on a regular basis. No doubt that decades from now, cross-cultural parenting styles will opt for a more balanced and level-headed style due to the research that heavily slants overly-strict parenting styles. Forcing your points of view onto your kids may seem like you're doing them a favour in the short term, but long-term it creates adults who can't think for themselves and will likely choose abusive partners who mimick the same display of emotional manipulation as their parents did.


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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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