Strict parenting: When enough is enough

  • By Dr. T Deepa Porkodi

The strict or authoritative style of parenting is where the parents hold their children’s lives over a tight leash. Strict parents are high in control and low in nurturing qualities. They set high standards for all activities and expect strict obedience to the rules set by them. However, these parents display little or no warmth and affection. They love and affection they offer is also conditional love based on obedience and performance. Children of authoritarian parents turn out to be obedient, but this obedience is based on fear. Such parents very often use shame and guilt to make their children change their behaviour. They don’t encourage verbal give-and-take and expect their orders to be obeyed without question.
The children brought up in such a way are initially very obedient and polite but later all the suppressed emotions find an outlet. More often than not, such children end up being aggressive and tend to be bullies at school. Research shows that fathers who are extremely strict with their sons end up making their sons violent and aggressive, or indulge in non-physical aggressiveness like name calling.
Strictly raised children have difficulty relating to their peer group. They either end up being aggressive or completely timid and submissive. At school teachers rate them as less socially competent, average or poor at studies and extra-curricular activities. They are also less accepted by their friends. The school dropout rates in such children are very high. Studies conducted on such dropouts revealed that they suffered from a huge inferiority complex and low self-esteem.
Strict parenting can cause several problems in adolescence too. Children who are dominated by their parents are often found breaking the law. Alcohol and drug abuse rates are high in such children.
Psychologically, these children are usually poor decision makers. Having had their parents make decisions for them all their lives, they find it very difficult to take a stand. They end up being indecisive. At the workplace too, they lack the competency to take up initiatives or show the lead. They make better team members than team leaders. Even if presented with an opportunity, they are likely to shy away from responsibility as they feel inferior and lack the requisite courage.
Strict parenting can have a negative impact on the child’s weight too. Studies show that an overly strict upbringing has a negative impact on weight because the children often fail to learn to eat on the basis of hunger and satiety. In such families parents use food as a reward, insist that children clean their plates, or restrict the kind or amount of food a child can eat. The studies showed that the children of authoritarian mothers were nearly five times as likely to be overweight compared to their counterparts!