Parental Control: Authoritative vs. Authoritarian Parenting

By Dave Sebastian,

Amid an increasingly competitive world where diverse skill-sets are required, parents have become more unflinching in ensuring children’s path toward excellence — whether through extra tutoring, arts classes, or sports. But in directing children toward those skill-sets, parents often demand high standards and resort to forceful measures. How intense, though, should parents’ disciplining of children level to?

“When children consider their parents to be legitimate authority figures, they trust the parent and feel they have an obligation to do what their parents tell them to do,” lead researcher Rick Trinkner said to
Children whose parents assert more authority on them tend to be more “delinquent,” according to the 2011 University of New Hampshire research “Don’t trust anyone over 30: Parental legitimacy as a mediator between parenting style and changes in delinquent behavior over time.”

The research recommended an “authoritative” style of parenting. While traces of authority are evident, this style features parents who engage closely with children by explaining to them the reasons behind the rules. This will likely make their children more “self-reliant, self-controlled, and content.”

In contrast, an “authoritarian” style of parenting, in which parents assert sizable authority but are nonchalant to children’s needs and make no explanations to the rules they impose, can cause children to be “discontent, withdrawn, and disrespectful,” the research stated.

Asserting control through coercive measures can also lead to children’s distress. Whether academically or emotionally, children tend to feel pressured when excessively control is exerted over their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, according to a July 2016 University of California–Riverside study on 394 mother-child pairs from the United States and China. 

Meanwhile, enforcing little authority over children can also have drawbacks. Such “permissive” style of parenting, Trinkner’s research stated, can cause children to be too reliant on parents and timid in making independent decisions.

The air of authority in a house should neither be too forceful nor too loose. Instead, we should let our children explore the world responsibly.

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