Which type of parents produces better kids? Strict parents or lenient parents? Many parents grapple with what type of parenting and discipline to use. It often boils down to strict or lenient.
Let’s find out what strict parenting is and how it can affect a child’s development.
Why Are Parents Strict
Parents are strict for various reasons, some good and some self-serving. Some strict parents have high expectations. They teach their children self-discipline by holding them accountable. These parents have their kids’ best interests at heart.
But some strict parents are controlling because they fear being seen as incompetent parents if their children make mistakes. Such parents are more concerned about their own feelings and insecurity than their children’s well-being.
Most strict parents justify their choice of parenting style using the either-or parenting rationale. They don’t want to raise defiant kids, and lenient parenting is often believed to cause defiance in children. So they turn to strict parenting. They believe that one can only be either permissive parents or strict parents. There’s nothing in-between.
Their sentiments usually include a combination of the following.
- “I don’t let my kids walk all over me.”
- “I want well-behaved children.”
- “I don’t want to raise a brat.”
- “My child needs me to be a parent, not a friend.”
- “I don’t want my kids to end up in jail.”
What Are Strict Parents (Meaning & Definition)
In psychology, strict parents are defined as parents who place high standards and demands on their children. They can be authoritative or authoritarian, depending on the parents’ disciplinary beliefs and responsiveness to their child’s needs1.
When parents couple high standards with warm and responsive support to their children, they are authoritative parents.
Despite setting high standards, authoritative parents value independent thinking. They allow children to challenge their rules or provide feedback. Authoritative parenting generally produces the best outcomes in kids.
Unfortunately, most strict parents are not authoritative; they are harsh parents.
Most strict parents are cold, unresponsive, and unsupportive to their children. Their rules are often overly strict and arbitrary.
These parents don’t allow their children to voice their opinions or question the parents’ decisions. They are controlling parents practicing the authoritarian parenting style, also known as the harsh parenting style, which generates worse outcomes than the authoritative style.
Are Strict Parents Good or Bad
While strict and responsive parenting style (authoritative) produces the best outcomes in children, strict and unresponsive parenting style (authoritarian) produces adverse outcomes including behavior problems, low self-esteem, self-control issues, and mental health problems.
When people speak about strict parenting, they generally refer to the harsh authoritarian type.
In the rest of this article, we will focus on the authoritarian type and its detrimental impact on children.
What Are The Signs of Strict Parents
Strict parents are the ones who
- have many strict rules and are demanding
- demand their child to adhere blindly to their expectations
- do not allow their child to question parental authority
- punish severely for violation of any rules
- cold, unresponsive to their kids
- use shaming and harsh words
- do not let their child participate in decision making
- have unrealistically high expectations
- do not tolerate mistakes
- “they are always right” attitude
Effects of Strict Parenting
So what happens when parents are too strict?
These parents view academic success as a priority and judge the effectiveness of their parenting by their children’s performance in school. This type of harsh parenting can result in high academic performance in some cultures such as in many Asian countries.
However, despite the apparent academic success in some cultures, harsh parenting style also causes a lot of damage to children2.
Kids raised with strict parenting are more likely to be unhappy and suffer from depression
Studies show that kids raised in a strict household tend to be unhappy3 and show more depressive symptoms4–6.
In some countries, such as Hong Kong7 and Australia8, kids raised in strict households are more prone to suicidal attempts or ideation.
Kids raised with strict discipline tend to have antisocial behavioral problems such as rebellion, anger, aggression, and delinquency
Although some parents think that strict parenting produces better-behaved kids, studies show that such a parenting style actually produces kids that have more behavioral problems.
Kids learn what they live and what their parents model. When harsh parents discipline their kids with punitive emotions, force, threats, and verbal and harsh punishments, they model how to react punitively when they’re upset.
As a result, the children have learned to become more rebellious, angry9, impulsive and aggressive when things don’t go their way10 (and therefore get punished even more!) These kids are also more likely to engage in risky behavior such as running away11.
Strict family turns their kids into sneaky actors and liars
Strict parents expect unquestionable obedience, conformity, and respect for authority, which are usually obtained with harsh discipline. As a result, super strict parents create a sneaky child. These children have learned to become good actors. They behave well at home but act differently when their parents are not around.
Because the parents do not provide a safe environment for the kids, to tell the truth, kids raised with strict rules are good at lying and hiding things so they don’t get in trouble.
Strict parenting curtails motivation in their kids
Strict moms and dads choose extracurricular activities, class schedules, and social events for their children with no input from them at all.
However, autonomy is an innate human desire12,13. Strict parents stripping children of their autonomy causes these kids to be more rebellious and unmotivated as teenagers and young adults14.
Imposing external incentives such as threats of punishment creates extrinsic motivation while decreasing intrinsic motivation. Kids raised with Draconian rules not only are more rebellious but also show low initiative15.
Authoritarian parents raise bullies
Authoritarian parenting elicits compliance using fears. When kids do what others want out of fear, that makes up for bullying. These children learn to use force and power over others to get what they want.
Studies have shown that children of authoritarian parents are more likely to become bullies or friends of bullies16.
Children raised with strict rules lack self-esteem and confidence to make decisions
Research shows that female adolescents with authoritarian parents are less capable of deciding when given the opportunity17.
Having strict parents mean these children are used to being told what to do. They lack self-esteem and self-confidence18 to decide and worry about making the wrong choice.
Kids raised with punitive discipline suffer from inflexible thinking, resulting in worse mental wellbeing
Psychological flexibility is crucial to daily well-being and lasting psychological health. To become competent and healthy adults, children need to develop skills that allow flexible thinking within complex social environments19,20.
Parents with rigid rules impose high levels of intrusive psychological and behavioral control on their kids. These kids have less psychological flexibility and more maladaptive self-regulation in later adolescence.
Lack of psychological flexibility and emotional regulation skills are both highly associated with the development of mental disorders21.
Besides depression, this type of harsh parenting is highly associated with mental disorders including General Anxiety Disorder (GED)22, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)22, dissociation, self-harm23, drug use, and alcohol abuse24.
Kids raised by controlling parents have twisted beliefs of authority
Controlling parents who act like dictators instill a twisted belief of authority in kids. They use unilateral communication and establish rules without explanation and expect their children to obey without complaint or question.
On one hand, some children learn that power is always right. They need to obey and don’t question authority when they should. These kids internalize a need to “follow the rules at all costs.” This belief can set them up for dangerous situations where they can be taken advantage of by authority figures abusing their power.
Some children have developed distrust, hostility, and resistance to authorities such as schools or police. They view parental legitimacy negatively, and this view can cause delinquency25.
Kids raised with authoritarian parenting tend to have more peer rejection and future relationship problems, especially in romantic relationships
Children in very strict households are less emotionally regulated and have worse social skills26. They also break more engagement and have unsatisfactory affairs in adulthood.
Final Thoughts On Strict Parents
Perhaps the most damaging effect of strict parenting is the strain it puts on the parent-child relationship, as no one likes to be controlled.
If you’re a strict parent, it’s worth it to think of what your child-raising goal is. The bottom line is – what is your vision of your relationship 20 years from now? Do you want your child to visit you, talk to you, or answer your phone calls when they grow up? Do you want them to still be in your life?
For those with overly strict parents, check out:
If you have very controlling parents in childhood, you probably have a lot of healing to do. Losing teenage years to strict parents can create scars that are hard to heal. Seeking professional help to support you through this healing journey is a good idea. Psychologists can help you figure out how to deal with strict parents. You don’t have to do it alone.
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