When kids are growing up, they may often ask themselves and their friends "why are my parents so strict?" when they aren't allowed to attend a certain event or stay out past curfew. It's normal for parents to want to protect their children and to put rules in place to keep them safe, and it's equally normal for kids to push back against these rules, especially if they don't understand them. Studies have found that growing up in a strict family can actually have negative effects on a child's health and well-being, which is why it's important for parents to know the disadvantages of strict parenting, as well as if they themselves are strict parents.
What Does It Mean to Be a Strict Parent?
Although people use the more common term 'strict parents' when describing a parenting style involving many rules, there is actually a term used in psychology for this style called authoritarian parenting. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), authoritarian parenting is described as a parenting style in which "the parent or caregiver stresses obedience, deemphasizes collaboration and dialogue, and employs strong forms of punishment." This parenting style sets many strong boundaries for children to follow and establishes a clear power hierarchy between parents and children. This "my way or the highway" parenting style centers around:
- High expectations for children
- Lower levels of warmth
- Decreased flexibility
- Low responsiveness
Examples of Strict Parenting
After learning more about the authoritarian parenting style, you may be left wondering what strict parenting looks like, or even if you are a strict parent yourself. The authoritarian parenting style looks different from other forms of parenting, such as authoritative, which is centered around more warmth and collaboration. Some examples of strict parenting include:
- Strict: Creates several rules for their children to follow, does not explain why they are put in place, and delivers harsh punishment when a rule is broken. vs. Authoritative: Creates rules for children to follow, explains why they are helpful, and allows the child room to share their thoughts and possibly adjust them.
- Strict: Delivers harsh punishment for their child for breaking a rule and acts cold towards them. vs. Authoritative: Talks to their child about why they broke the rule, re-establishes understanding of why the rule is in place, and continues to be warm to their child.
- Strict: Is not flexible about punishment when a rule is broken or about changing rules. vs. Authoritative: Is flexible about adjusting rules based on trusting their child's decision-making skills.
- Strict: Does not encourage their child to question rules. vs. Authoritative: Encourages open collaboration and communication of the needs of both parent and child and works together to find a resolution.
- Strict: Does not look at things from a child's perspective because they believe they know what is best. vs. Authoritative: Actively tries to understand rules and expectations from a child's point of view and is empathetic towards a child's beliefs and feelings.
Are You a Strict Parent?
Most parents set out rules and boundaries for their child to follow based on their family's unique expectations and desires for behavior. This can mean that strict parenting may look slightly different from household to household, but there are some aspects of the parenting style that may be relatable for parents across the board. You may be a strict parent if:
- You notice you have more rules/boundaries for your child than other families around you.
- You have high expectations for your child and become upset if they fall short.
- You punish your child if they violate a rule no matter the explanation.
- You believe that as a parent, you are always right and know what is best for your child.
- You do not leave your child room to question rules and insist that they follow whatever you say without asking questions.
- You believe in the "my way or the highway" or "because I said so" mindset.
- Your child doesn't feel comfortable voicing their opinion or asking questions.
Disadvantages of Strict Parenting
Parenting styles have been studied for many years, and research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that the authoritarian parenting style is associated with serval disadvantages in terms of a child's overall well-being and the parent-child relationship. Some outcomes of how strict parenting affects children include:
- Decreased academic performance
- Lower rates of empathy
- Decreased school engagement
- Increased rates of depression
- Higher rates of anxiety
Moving Forward From Strict Parenting
There are several disadvantages of strict parenting that may make you want to re-evaluate your parenting style, especially if you think you are a strict parent. Every parent wants the best for their child, even strict parents, and it's this desire to keep kids safe and healthy that fuels the rule-setting and need for control. The NIH has found that authoritative parenting is associated with the most positive outcomes in child development and well-being, which is why adopting the parenting style, or adding some of its elements into your family, can be beneficial for your whole family.
Both strict and authoritative parents have high expectations for their children; however, authoritative parents offer more comfort and support in order to help their kids grow. Creating a warmer environment for your child may reinforce the idea that they can turn to you whenever they need, and that your love is not in any way conditional. Some ways of providing support are:
- Going to their extracurricular events/activities
- Comforting them when they make a mistake or face a difficult challenge
- Encouraging them to find and pursue their own interests.
Talking with your child is a great way to learn more about each other's perspectives and needs and disrupt the "parent is always right" mindset. It may also help decrease the harsh imbalance of power in your parent-child relationship, which in turn may create more trust and support between members of your family. Knowing more about the needs and expectations of others can also help you be more flexible in rule-setting. Some ways to encourage communication are:
- Talking to your child about why you have certain rules in place
- Listening to what your child has to say about the rules
- Working together to create a more flexible set of rules based on both of your needs
Many rules set by strict parents revolve around needing a lot of control due to fear of negative outcomes if the rules aren't in place. Developing a greater sense of trust with your child is one way of changing rules from being fear-based to being protective in the future. This may also help parents set fewer/different boundaries for their children that may allow kids to make their own mistakes and learn from them. Some ways to develop trust are:
- Being honest with your child as much as possible
- Learning more about their decision-making skills and perspectives
- Admitting when you have made mistakes and encouraging your child to share as well
Seek Parental Support for the Change
Changing or making adjustments to a parenting style that your family has already adjusted to is not an easy task. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting for both parents and children as they navigate through the transition. Finding support for yourself as a parent during this time is important and will help you find comfort from those around you as you learn and grow. Some ways to find support are:
Being a Strict Parent
Even though there are some negative effects of strict parenting, it's important to remember that just because you are a strict parent, it doesn't mean that you're a bad one. Strict parents create rules and boundaries in order to protect their child in a way that they believe will help guide them to success. If you're looking to make changes to your parenting style or parent-child relationship, adopting some elements of authoritative parenting can be helpful. Creating an environment that balances both love and support and boundaries can be beneficial to your entire family.