Do you rule with an iron fist and want your children to follow your orders to a T? Do you frequently use timeouts or groundings as punishment? You might be an authoritarian parent. Don’t worry — every parent has been there. It’s easy to lose your cool and snap at your little one in the midst of messy everyday life. But authoritarian parenting can cause problems if it’s used on a daily basis.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to add more positivity to your parenting style.
Common Characteristics of Authoritarian Parenting
- You Have Strict Rules And Expectations
The emphasis is not on teaching and internalising skills including critical thinking when faced with complex decisions, but more on following rules set forth, upheld and maintained by adults. Authoritarian parents set the rules and feel that children should follow them — no matter what.
- You Utilise Punishment With Little to no Explanation
Parents may yell or use timeouts or ground children in order to teach a lesson. Without explanation, these punishments don’t teach children anything beyond the fact that they did something wrong.
- You Rarely Offer Children Choices or Option
Authoritarian parents are more likely to tell their children what to do, how to feel and how to behave, without asking for their children’s thoughts, feelings or input.
- Demonstrate Limited Warmth or Nurturing
Parents using an authoritarian parenting style tend to think that cuddling and kindness will spoil a child, so will use firmness with very limited kindness.
Effects of Authoritarian Parenting
Your parenting style can actually affect your child for many years to come. The children of strict authoritarian parents:
- Internalise Power Struggles With Love
Children with authoritarian parents tend to associate love with obedience and achievement,. When their parents display limited kindness, children don’t know what it means to be in a loving and nurturing environment.
- Frequently Express lower Self-Esteem
Children growing up with strict parents also tend to act more shy and withdrawn, especially in new situations where they don’t know the rules yet.
- Demonstrate Challenges in Social Situations
It has been found that children of authoritarian parents are less likely to feel socially accepted by their peers and more likely to experience bullying as a victim or perpetrator.
How to Change Your Parenting Style for the Better
Want to inject more positivity in your parenting style? Here are some tips to help you get out of the authoritarian groove:
- Start Slowly
Change doesn’t happen overnight, so take it one day at a time. Small steps are critical with a good dose of patience, forgiveness and self-compassion. If you find yourself slipping back to your old ways, just keep at it.
- Calm Down
A small first step might be when a parent is angry, take steps to calm down first — breathe, sit in a quiet space alone for a few minutes. This will not only help you come up with more constructive responses but also models behaviour you want your child to learn.
- Ask Questions and Listen
Ask your child about school and their friends — and really listen to their answers. Asking questions like these helps your child to feel you are truly interested in their thoughts, feelings and experiences, and that you want to support them. It also helps strengthen your bond.
- Encourage Learning From Mistakes
Instead of jumping to reprimanding or punishment when children make mistakes, talk with them about it. Ask your child what they think caused the situation to occur and how they feel about it. Let them know that while you are disappointed and there will be consequences, you are proud of how they are approaching the situation now.
- Don’t Take Any Parenting Style too Seriously
Just because you don’t want to rule with an iron fist doesn’t mean that you have to jump into any other model of parenting. Do what feels right to you and do it from a place of love and understanding.
To find out more about different parenting styles, learn about the results of permissive parenting.