What kind of parent are you?

A look at authoritative vs authoritarian parenting styles

By Dr Karla Hylton

Sunday, May 13, 2018

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'Authoritative' and 'authoritarian' are words that may easily be confused as they relate to parenting styles. They sound similar, but differ drastically in meaning. They are different approaches to parenting with generally different outcomes, just as the words 'punishment' and 'discipline' are different.

An authoritative parenting style is typically hailed as the best parenting approach. It emphasises discipline instead of punishment. For the past 25 years, numerous studies have consistently associated an authoritative parenting style to the most positive outcomes.

The approaches were first defined by Diane Baumrind, a developmental psychologist who proposed a new system for classifying parents. She identified three, but I will be discussing only two styles today.

Authoritative Parents

These parents have high expectations both for scholastic achievement as well as personal development, but they may adjust their expectations based on the needs of the child.

They are also strict, consistent, affectionate, warm and responsive parents. They set rules but have open discussions about these rules and the consequences of breaking the rules. They encourage independence and resilience in their children. These parents believe that their kids are teachable and use discipline to teach them values.

Based on research, children of authoritative parents:

• Tend to be happy and content;

• Are more independent;

• Achieve higher academic success,

• Develop good self-esteem.

• Interact with peers using competent social skills;

• Have better mental health —less depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, delinquency, alcohol and drug use;

• Have good control over their emotions;

• Are self-confident.

Authoritarian Parents

These parents believe that children are inherently strong-willed and self-indulgent. They see themselves as the higher authority that bends a child into compliance of rules. They force the child to comply according to their will and exert total control over their child. They may say “Because I said so” as an explanation for a rule.

This style is characterised by extremely high expectations with almost no warmth and guidance. Rules, regulations and consequences are rigidly enforced. Feedback is typically negative. This parenting style creates an oppressive environment which may have far-reaching effects when these kids become adults.

Based on research, children of authoritarian parents:

• May learn to associate obedience and success with love;

• Lack confidence;

• Have difficulty expressing emotions;

• Might have low self-esteem

• May act shy or fearful around others;

• May experience difficulty in social settings;

• Might display aggressive demeanour outside of the house;

• Tend to conform easily;

• Are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.

Alyson Schafer, therapist and author, said “This parenting style results in one of three types of adults. You'll get a pleaser who needs the approval of an authority figure; you'll get a rebel who says 'I'll have nothing to do with this kind of control'; or you'll get the sneak, somebody who goes about achieving their own end purposes without getting caught.”

Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parenting

Let us look at a scenario to demonstrate these two approaches to parenting. Imagine a situation where two young girls steal candy from the grocery store. One girl has authoritative parents, so when she finally arrives home she receives a fair punishment that fits the nature of the transgression. She may have her electronics confiscated for two weeks and must return the candy and apologise to the store owner. Her parents talk to her about why stealing is wrong, but do not condemn. They are supportive and encourage her not to engage in such behaviour again.

The other girl has authoritarian parents, so when she arrives home she is yelled at and humiliated by both parents. Her father spanks her and orders her to spend the rest of the night in her room without dinner. The child's parents offer little support or love and no feedback or guidance about why the theft was wrong. This child does not comprehend the nature of the transgression and feels unloved, unprotected and fears her parents.

Which approach do you think is better?

The type of parent that you are greatly influences your child's personal development and academic success. If you believe you are an authoritarian parent, it is not too late to make adjustments to your style. Start by making small changes. This could be as simple as explaining to your child the reasons for your rules and regulations. Start to encourage two-way communication which will gradually deepen the connection between yourself and your child. Parenting is an art and we are all learning as we walk this journey.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools . She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, biochemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com .

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