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Authoritarian parenting is out



Once-popular parenting style now seen as counter-productive

Authoritarian parenting is out


Almost a decade ago, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: Raising Children the Chinese Way by Amy Chua was a runaway bestseller. It was much buzzed-about in my circle of friends, many of whom, like me, were in the thick of raising kids. The book was so popular, the term “tiger mother” – meaning an authoritarian mom who ‘gets results’ from her offspring using drill sergeant methods (And they love her for it)  – has stayed in the lexicon, and not necessarily as a negative term. But recent research suggests authoritarian parenting, as described by Kelly Burch in Insider, is more damaging than originally thought. Burch not only lays out the studies on how shaming, threats, and extreme demands can have long term negative consequences, she advises parents on how to recognize the authoritarian aspects of their own style.

My son was thirteen when Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was published, just entering adolescence. The authoritarian parenting espoused by Chua seemed reactive to much of the parenting I saw around me, which was largely even more permissive than my own “hippie child” upbringing. I was often unsupervised, with only three channels of television to watch, but as long as there were TV dinners in the fridge, I was self-sufficient. Whereas, in 2011, kids, then as now, were on social media, had iPhones, couldn’t tie their shoes, were fed according to their wishes, didn’t do dishes or take out the garbage, and, hand to God, even needed their butts wiped occasionally. And, in my estimation, most of this lack of discipline made them, and their parents, miserable. So when the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother came out, I understood its popularity.

READ MORE: The art of setting consequences

Now the tables appear to have turned. According to a Michigan State University study, people raised by authoritarian parents may:

  • Have trouble thinking for themselves
  • Have poor self-esteem
  • Have trouble interacting with their peers, because they expect their peers to listen to their demands, as they have to listen to the parents' demands. 
  • Have struggles with anger and resentment. 
Authoritarian parenting has also been linked to increased risk for drug use and lower academic achievement.  

Interestingly, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), “the negative effects associated with authoritative parenting aren't necessarily the result of high expectations, they come from the way that parents fail to respond to their children emotionally.”

In other words, if you’re going to be a “law and order” parent, you still need to be emotionally available and, occasionally, vulnerable. Even a tiger can do that.



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