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Why Strict Mothers Have Better Children, According to Science

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Growing up, did you ever think your parents were being too strict? Maybe you’re one of those strict parents, whether you admit it or not. But do strict parenting styles really deserve all the flack they get? The funny thing is, the science suggests that being a stricter parent can actually help foster better children.

Why Strict Parents Usually Have Better Children

You’re probably wondering: what do they mean by ‘better’? In a 2015 study published by the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex professor Ericka Rascon-Ramirez clarifies:[1]

[The] measure of the expectations in this study reflects a combination of aspirations and beliefs about the likelihood of access to higher education declared by the majority of parents, in most cases the mother.

Between 2004 and 2010, Rascon-Ramirez studied a database of 15,500 schoolgirls aged thirteen or fourteen. She found that children who had strict mothers were more confident and secure. In addition to this emotional maturity, the frequency of premature pregnancies was 4 percent lower in teenage girls who had persistent and nagging mothers. As a result, children from families with strict parents – mothers especially – have a higher chance of finishing college, getting a good job, and finding general success.

In many cases we succeeded in doing what we believed was more convenient for us, even when this was against our parents’ will. But no matter how hard we tried to avoid our parents’ recommendations, it is likely that they end up influencing, in a more subtle manner, choices that we had considered extremely personal… What our parents expected about our school choices was, very likely, a major determinant of our decisions about conceiving a child or not during our teenage years.[2]

In short, healthy parental pressure (i.e., setting high standards) can increase your child’s chance of going to and completing school, which ideally leads to a more successful life.

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Parenting: How Strict Is Too Strict?

Every parent and adult planning on becoming a mother or father one day has asked themselves this question. How strict will I be as a parent? Studies exist where experts claim that strict parenting has minimal benefits for children. But with so many ‘experts’ on the topic, who do you believe – and put your child’s fate in the hands of?

Strict parenting, according to psychotherapist Philippa Perry, can turn your child into a liar (and an effective one at that). When a child lies, it’s not necessarily because he or she is a bad kid. Rather, the lies can come out of a co-created situation wherein the child feels unsafe telling the truth.[3] Excessive discipline, putting pressure on a child to be perfect, or shaming them in front of other people can all contribute to this. 

We do our kids no favors at all when we persecute them for lying. We can be curious about the lie, we can be interested in it, and look at our part in it. But being draconian and rigid about it is not going to make a situation better.[4]

If Not Strictness, Then What?

So, is there a middle ground? Can parents enforce guidelines and values on their children without scaring them into being better at hiding their mistakes rather than owning up to them? 

On the other end of the spectrum, numerous studies speak to the apparent intellectual superiority of Asian-American students compared to all other ethnic groups, especially in math and science.[5]

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It’s not because they’re simply born into intellect, but that Chinese parents are stricter, demand more, hold their children to higher standards, and have punishments ready when children fail to hit the mark. At first glance, authoritarian style of parenting seems undesirable. Even if children end up doing well, is it worth compromising their emotional and social well-being? Unlikely.[6]

Consider authoritative parenting – there’s a difference. While authoritarian parenting functions out of fear, authoritative parenting – though spelled similarly – emphasizes high standards coupled with an abundance of parental warmth and open communication.

In short, there’s a battle between permissive parenting and authoritarian parenting:

In authoritarian parenting:[7]

  • Harsh discipline can lead to more rebellious children
  • Strict discipline enforces the false idea that use of power is always right
  • Child-parent relationships are absent of empathy, based on fear, and encourage bullying
  • Children tend to be ‘good’ only when authorities are around, which fosters lying

In permissive parenting:[8]

  • Children’s desires are fulfilled at someone else’s expense
  • The lack of healthy limitations doesn’t allow children to learn self-management and impose their own limits
  • Parents tend to be wishy washy on things that should not be compromised
  • Legitimate feelings of sadness and disappointment become intolerable (because parents do everything they can do keep their children from experiencing them)

Authoritative Parenting: A Fine Balance

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No matter what side you choose, permissive and authoritarian parenting are two extremes that each have their flaws. In short, neither really works (in the long-term, at least). What does work well is authoritative parenting. It marries the empathy found in permissive parents and the healthy limits set by strict ones.

At the end of the day, each child-parent relationship is unique. Freedom, by virtue of its meaning, requires limitations. For example, the reason you allow your kids the freedom to play in the backyard that backs onto the road is because the backyard is fenced off. Otherwise they could run into traffic. So, while limitations may seem too strict sometimes, there’s no reason you can’t also exhibit love at the same time.

That’s what we’ll call them: Loving Limits.

 

Sources

[1] Ericka G. Rason-Ramirez (2015, March 31). Behind every successful woman is a nagging mom? Teenage girls more likely to succeed if they have pushy mothers. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/research/publications/523037
[2] Steve Doughty Social Affairs Correspondent for The Daily Mail. (2015, March 31). Behind every successful woman is a nagging mom? Teenage girls more likely to succeed if they have pushy mothers. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3020114/Teenage-girls-likely-succeed-pushy-mothers-nagging-better-says-study.html
[3] Flood, R. (2016, August 21). Strict parenting turns children into liars, experts claim. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/strict-parenting-turns-children-into-liars-experts-claim-a7202166.html
[4] Hughes, T. (2016, August 20). Strict parents ‘turn children into liars’: Disciplinarians mean ‘the child does not feel safe telling the truth’. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3749963/Strict-parents-turn-children-liars-Disciplinarians-mean-child-does-not-feel-safe-telling-truth.html
[5] Traditional Chinese parenting: What research says about successful Chinese kids. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.parentingscience.com/chinese-parenting.html
[6] Chua, A. (2011, January 08). Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754
[7] What’s Wrong with Strict Parenting? (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/strict-parenting
[8] What’s Wrong with Permissive Parenting? (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/permissive-parenting

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