• Gianna De Salvo

Why Being Strict Doesn't Work

Updated: Mar 17

There are three types of generally agreed parenting styles, Authoritarian (strict, inflexible), Permissive (too flexible) and Authoritative (firm yet compassionate). Studies have shown that the best style to strive for is the Authoritative one. But why is this?

Firstly, it is important to say that many of you (me included) may've grown up in a household where your parents thought being strict was the way to go. They may've used punishments, threats, shaming and expected your unwavering obedience. You may not have been allowed to express big emotions without fear of being spanked or sent to your room. It doesn't mean your parents didn't love you or wanted to control you. It is because that is how they were taught to parent from their parents, and their parents were taught the same from their parents before them and so on. They just did the best with the information they had available at the time. It also didn't help that all of the parent 'experts' and parent books at the time reinforced these ideas, even down to phrases such as 'a child should be seen and not heard.'

When we are raised in these environments, we learn unconsciously that this is the 'right' way to do things so we keep doing them. How many times have you thought to yourself, "I sound just like my mother when I say that to my child." But just because this is what you've learned, doesn't mean there isn't another way.

Studies have shown that enforcing strict discipline does not have the results that the parents intend it to. Children from strict families tend to suffer later in life from low self-esteem, behavioural problems and can be easily influenced by peer pressure. They can also more easily fall victim to bullying or be bullies themselves.

Setting harsh limits on a child means that they don't learn self-discipline or the ability to regulate their emotions in a healthy way (emotional intelligence). If they are always told what to do, they aren't learning what the right way is for them and are only operating from what someone else tells them to do, which links to caving into peer pressure. Also, if they are punished when they misbehave or have big feelings, they get a sense that they are bad or unloved, and their self-esteem takes a hit as a result.

When children are parented from a place of control and fear, it means that the child grows up thinking that this is the way everyone should be treated. So they might go on to bully others or use threats and violence like their parents did. Or they may become the victim of the bully because they are afraid to stand up for themselves. Parents are the child's first role models, and in the early years they are picking up cues from them constantly. So, it makes sense that a controlling or strict parent would produce either a controlling or fearful child.

On the other hand, children raised by parents who take the Authoritative approach, which includes Conscious and Peaceful Parenting strategies, grow up with a strong connection to their parents; are less rebellious; and feel seen, heard and respected and understood. These are the children who are more likely to come to their parents when they are in trouble rather than seeking advice from their peers. They are also more likely to form healthier relationships later in life and be kind and compassionate to others. This is because Authoritative parents provide their child with empathy and unconditional love, which strengthens the parent-child relationship and teaches the child that feelings are normal and are ok to express.

Authoritative parents view themselves as a teacher for their child, rather than the stern boss. There are no outdated fear and control bases strategies like punishments, yelling, bribing or even over-praising. The parents learn to regulate their own emotions and behaviours so they can be a good emotional coach for their child.

This doesn't mean that there are no limits needed. In fact, quite the opposite. Peaceful parents set firm boundaries, but they are not designed to rein the children in;

They are there to help them grow up safe and healthy. Children need boundaries — without them they lose their way. But they need them to be delivered with love, understanding and kindness.

They also need to be linked to family values and discussed with children in an inclusive way so that it is clear why they are there and why they are important. That way, children don’t just follow rules based out of a fear of the negative consequences of breaking them.

For more information about changing your parenting style and unlearning past patterns, get in touch with me at gianna@joyfulparentcoaching.com.

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