There are two different ways of parenting that sound very similar, but they have massively different impacts on the way kids turn out.
One parenting style is call ‘authoritarian’. These parents have lots of rules and boundaries, not many reasons for the rules, and they are all backed up with stiff penalties. This authoritarian style means a parent barks orders and the kids are expected to carry them out straight away without questioning, or there will be trouble. And the thing is, it works.
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Authoritarian parents could easily point to their well-behaved kids and claim their style worked very well. It’s the style that many parents in many cultures have used for centuries, and so it is pretty hard to argue against. But there are some arguments against it.
One is that the kids might be well behaved now, but for how long? Very typically, the kids of authoritarian-style parents rebel against them in adolescence. Little kids might comply with rules, but often find it tough to bring the rules on board, into their hearts. They don’t often believe the rules are right, they just believe they have to follow them or else. When they can break the rules, they will. Sadly, research also shows that children of authoritarian parents may have a poor relationship with parents when they get older, and low self-esteem as well.
Far happier results flow from something called ‘authoritative’ parenting. It is like authoritarian parenting in that these parents know kids really do need boundaries and discipline, but the authoritative parent also adds lots of connection and warmth. They explain the reasons for the rules and are prepared to be flexible. And when kids break the rules, the discipline is not just punishment – the real objective is that the children will learn to think and make better decisions next time.
If you are an authoritarian parent, you are doing a lot that is right – it just needs a few tweaks to become authoritative. It is a change that can be made and the benefits to kids are immense.
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