Just as in other aspects of life, parents have choices when it comes to raising their child. Many parenting styles have emerged over the years, but essentially three main ones have stood the test of time.
Many factors influence children. It is clear that their individual qualities have as much to do with how they evolve into adults as other causes. Their home environment, gender, genetics, personality, temperament and early life experiences all play important roles.
Parents do impact on their child’s development but exactly how much is still unclear. Even children who are genetically similar and who received the same parenting, such as siblings, can emerge very differently as adults. Ultimately, it seems that a child’s personality and resilience plays a major role in how they are shaped by their early life.
No matter what parenting style is used there are some very important factors which link parenting approaches and how these affect children. How children are disciplined, the degree of parental warmth and nurturing, communication, and the parents? expectations of their child are all important (Diana Baumrind). Based on how much, or how little of these factors the child is exposed to will determine which parenting style will emerge.
Authoritarian parents see their way as the only way. They tend to be strict, regimented and ultimately in control of their children all of the time. They see their child’s behaviour as permanently being being under their control. Authoritarian parents have a tendency to develop strict rules which they expect the child to adhere to. Having an alternative point of view or being open to a little flexibility just isn’t on their radar. When the child fails to comply with their parent’s strict rules, there is usually some form of punishment.
Authoritarian parents tend to be the exact opposite of permissive parents. They seek to control their children’s every move and action, and they fear that by relinquishing control their child may develop qualities not up to their exacting standards. They see parental influence as all powerful and the child’s individuality as unimportant.
Authoritarian parents also see their children’s successes in life as a direct result of their control. The parent’s sense of identity is strongly based on their child’s achievements and successes. It is common for them to boast about their children’s attainments and exhibit competitiveness and jealousy if they feel their child is being challenged by another.
Authoritarian parenting does not work. Although it can make parents feel better in the short term it does nothing for building and sustaining healthy, long term relationships. It is only possible to be authoritarian when children are small and more compliant. There comes a time when their parent’s opinion of them is simply not as important and the need to forge their own path.
Authoritarian parenting does not celebrate the simple, middle of the road achievements of most children. Excellence is seen as the only yardstick and anything less than this is not to be tolerated. Being mediocre is, of course, more common for most of us but for the child of authoritarian parents it is simply not an option.
Rather than creating better behaved kids, authoritarian parenting can actually work in the reverse. It doesn’t teach the child how to motivate themselves and learn skills in self discipline. They don’t learn the all important concepts of effort invested = rewards; and so when they are adults, they can struggle to reach their potential.
Another issue is that when the child needs extra emotional support, they tend to see their parent as incapable of giving it. Nurturing and empathy are not high on the parent’s scale of what is important and they are not seen as a source of comfort by their child.
Parenting is not a one sided relationship. It is important to use our skills and knowledge to parent the children we have. Using fear, control, power and dominance to raise our children is never going to be a success. It is far better to aim for a balance of flexibility and love and then being open to whatever qualities our children develop.