Is Strict Parenting Ill-Advised?

Is it true that if parents are too strict, it makes their kids sneaky and hide things from their parents?

That scenario pretty much represents the history of parenting in terms of parent-child relationships.

The authoritarian parenting approach probably started in a cave way back in the days when we were hunters and gatherers. More commonly known these days as ‘strict’ parenting, authoritarian parenting approaches still predominate in Western culture.

Although the corporal punishment of children has declined over the past 60 years or so (as the result of research finding it to be ill-advised), we can still see parents bullying their children on a daily basis with threats and promises of various forms of punishment.

The cultural value of punishment remains a hallmark of child-rearing (as well as the concept of punishment on a societal level).

Strict parenting can produce more than just making kids sneaky. Not even making kids into liars and manipulators is the worst of the problem… with the problem centered on the child coming to fear the parent.

With the establishment of fear and intimidation, the quality of the parent-child relationship can be left diminished, if not dysfunctional. An adversarial relationship between parent and child is established and the bond of trust on the part of the parent is lost… sometimes forever. Secrets are kept and honest open communication is hampered.

We are as yet not talking about the worst possible aspects of strict parenting and I don’t even need to mention spanking as a punishment, although there is no greater act of rejection than to willfully subject another human being to violence… especially one young and vulnerable.

The concept of punishment consists of an effort to demean and diminish the offending party. The idea is to break the will and spirit of the offender to repeat the offending behavior again in the future.

Well, along the way we’ve learned that punishment is ineffective in terms of behavior modification or as a teaching method. We don’t care. As a society, simply love our vengeful ‘pound of flesh’ as payback. We pay lip service to the rehabilitation of criminals but do so grudgingly.

For parents, punishment serves as a powerful means by which to gain a measure of retribution for having their sensibilities offended by the child. A rejecting withdrawal of love from a beloved parent in the form of punishment does not only diminish the child, it can be traumatizing. In other words, the pain elicited from the child as the result of the punishment is the desired effect.

The major problem with punishment, especially under the yoke of authoritarian/strict parenting, is the fact that it acts as a countermeasure to the crucial emotional need of children to feel safe and secure in the love and acceptance of their parents.

The adequate satisfaction of those needs is critical for children to be able to experience a healthy process of emotional growth and development. Unmet emotional need in children serves as the foundation for any number of emotional problems, including the development of chronic personality disorders.

These remarks are not as radical as was once the case due to the recent development of non-punitive parenting approaches that involve safer and more effective methods of discipline. Now widely available is information related to such approaches as ‘positive parenting’, ‘positive discipline’, and ‘attachment parenting’.

On a personal level, I’ve proven the superiority of ‘positive discipline’ over ‘punitive discipline’ as the result of having raised two beautiful, altruistic, and well-loved children who were never punished. They were disciplined through the patience of my best teaching efforts.

Was I perfect? Hell no… my loving wife made up for my imperfections. But, I can say this in all confidence: My kids always wanted to please me just as much as I wanted to please them.

I’ll finish by saying that in the midst of mutual respect between parent and child, the notion of punishment is never needed as a consideration.