United States

The Problem with Authoritarian Parents

March 17, 2020

    The formative years and adolescence are critical periods of time for development in children as this is where they will acquire habits, mannerisms, and characteristics that they will carry for the rest of their lives. During this period, parents and guardians play a crucial role in influencing their child’s behavior through their method of parenting style. However, each parent has a different approach to raising their child. Three types of parenting styles were identified by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind in the 1960’s: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative. The focal point here is the authoritarian parenting style. The authoritarian parenting style is described as strict and controlling and is accompanied with the belief from parents that rules will be followed unconditionally without explanation. This approach to raising a child can be detrimental to a child’s mental health and overall well being in the long run. In order to prevent children from being misguided, parents should be aware of the adverse effects on a child’s mental health and social skills that are caused by the authoritarian parenting style.
    Early in my childhood, my parents set the expectation for how I was to conduct myself in the public and private setting. As the authoritarian parent is primarily focused on authority, the smallest mistakes that I made would result in disciplinary action. For example, my parents demanded that I stand in the corner of the dining room facing the wall for refusing to eat certain foods. They were adamant that my actions had consequences. Standing in the corner for an indefinite amount of time was tiresome, especially for a child who has a short attention span. When assessing my actions, my parents would simply tell me not to do it again. Questions pertaining to why that behavior was not tolerated went unanswered by my parents. Do parents really expect their children to truly understand a rule without reasoning? As my parents expected complete obedience, I grew up complying to their rules, searching for ways to avoid punishments and lectures. Stressful environments create stressful outcomes.
    Children spend the majority of their youth by beginning to interact with strangers and forming a sense of basic trust in the world. Parents who raise their child to conform to constant obedience stunt their child’s social skills and developing personality by not giving them the opportunity to explore certain behaviors and interests. There should be a fine line between inexcusable behaviors and childlike behaviors. Moreover, authoritarian parenting has been associated with poor social skills, lower levels of self-esteem, and higher levels of depression. (VeryWell Mind) Steven Gans, an assistant psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, reviewed and approved research from VeryWell Mind that presented the effects of this parenting style. This problem stems from the fact that parents prioritize obedience and disregard warmth and nurture, an essential component to a child’s development. Research by PubMed in 2016 studied the correlation between the authoritarian parenting style and depression. This study found that “80.6% of youth participants reported having five or more depressive symptoms” (PubMed). The fact that this small sample size of children reporting symptoms raises issues.  The method parents use to approach and raise children needs to be reconsidered. 
    Those supporting this method of parenting argue that their children are raised to be the most well behaved children. These children are able to determine between right from wrong and have an understanding that their actions will have consequences. From the perspective of a child of authoritarian parents, this is only true in certain cases. Despite the small number of benefits, it is unfair to raise children like this. Harmful behaviors become reinforced in future parents as they become desensitized to violent behavior. On the other hand, future parents may also assume the mindset that they should avoid the childhood they had and provide children with no punishments, known as the permissive style of parenting. There is a perfect medium between authoritarian and permissive parenting, the authoritative parenting style. Authoritative parents also set rules and expect obedience. However, they provide reasoning for their rules and listen to their child’s opinions. Authoritative parents make it clear to children that they are in charge while allowing children to express themselves. Researchers have found that children of authoritative parents grew up to be the most responsible adults who were comfortable with expressing themselves. (VeryWell Mind).  
    The authoritarian parenting style may be effective in instilling obedience in a child. However, it also instills low self-esteem, anxiety in social situations, and low forms of expression. With millions of teenagers and adults on the path to parenthood, they should be aware of how they raise their child. In order to avoid the long-term detrimental repercussions of the authoritarian parenting style, parents should adopt the authoritative parenting style in which they effectively raise their child to become confident without the consequences. 

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