Learning about the many parenting styles, I found it difficult to recognize where the families I surround myself in would be placed. Being an immigrant from a family whose chrono-system was affected by the Rwandan Genocide, their parenting style seem to be a mixture of traditional and authoritarian parenting. Which, in my opinion is fascinating, how my parents can instill punishments, be completely demanding, placed rules and values were the only set by them. And yet they also sometimes explained why a rule was present, “Because it is safer, we are foreigners”, “education is the only way we could make it”. I wonder if its a form of socialization to keep their children safe, humbled or to keep their culture intact because we were refugees.
These intersectionalities and our complex family history, I will consider the lives of two families that had authoritarian parents who terrified me too. From my experience interacting with them they displayed the following:
- They needed to be unquestionably obeyed and respected by commanding me to greet them appropriately.
- They would threaten and shame all children regardless of whose child it was.
- They made rules that completely limited their childhood, if I wanted to hangout with them; My parents had to ask them for permission for a midday visitation within their eyesight.
After reading articles about it, they provided more concrete concepts and definitions of these observations. According to Heath Phyllis’s Chapter, Parenting Patterns and the Impact of Culture and Context, these parents were “a) keeping children in their place, b) restricting children’s autonomy” (p.31). These conditions were the reason children feared their parents and weren’t provided opportunities to express their emotions and explore their personalities. This wouldn’t be deemed a good relationship that communicates, demonstrates affection, safety, mutual trust and respect. It offers a space to learn about oneself and how to manage life’s challenges. Without these it became easy for their children to find other outlets that create negative consequences. They also explain that children of authoritarians are more likely to participate in delinquency and crime, have poor reactions to frustrations and only behave when someone is looking over their shoulder. They don’t have the ability to make decisions on their own without an authority figure and when they do, they don’t have the psycho-social maturity; a theory that Erik Erikson developed to explain how social interactions and relationships play a role in their growth and development (Erick). Depleting the ability to deal with the challenges they encounter.
A great example is George from 7th grade who is currently homeless and an alcoholic. This happened immediately after he moved away to college where he finally had the freedom away from his authoritarian father. His father a few times dragged him by the ear into our classroom and beat him in front of the class (this was outside the U.S) because he lost his place in the top five class ranking. When he was away from school and home, he always tried to keep up with his peers and explored hazardous places to gain some thrill in his life he said. But unfortunately his environment, including this parenting style caused him to become an addict and is struggling to reintegrate back into society.
Another family with three children here in the US created strict gendered rules that shamed and oppressed women to be themselves. Sara from a young age to high school, she also experienced frequent beatings and threats to the point of her having “long sleepovers” at her extended family’s house. She followed their belief that the value of a woman is her home skills and reserved beauty. Even with these strict values she was bad at cooking and despised chores. This gave her low self esteem and self worth, feeling like she couldn’t accomplish the little worth her parents wanted from her. Started fighting at school and bully others, she would skip school and disappear for days staying with her friends families. Almost failing her high school career, her extended family concerned convinced her parents to let her move in with them and go to school in their district. This helped her regroup and learned from her cousins and their parents how warmth and structure can allow her to have her own autonomy. Now a successful college student who is still creating her own values and debunking her immediate family’s expectations.
With both these children, they experienced both experience low communion and low agency, had negative consequences and didn’t know how to recover. I also think that because the children didn’t know how to ask for a more communion so the only they could change is what they do with their agency. In the second story, Sara was provided with resources and her bridging capital helped her excel passed her experiences. She was provided structure and responsiveness of her feelings, enabling her to safely explore her self autonomy. This was not easy, but even with the setback, understanding that she could make mistakes and still have the same warmth and structure later. But Joseph wasn’t provided the opportunity to experience an authoritarian parenting and authorities didn’t advocate for him. This and other factors may have made him more at risk to alcoholism.
Thinking that if there were ways to educate parents on how to examine their parenting style and how to be either traditional or authoritarian. But in theory it seems easy but also understanding the intersectionality of what makes the parents become that authoritarian.
Comment below how does a child who has authoritarian parents recognize this and reclaim their lives?
Babysitting Academy. (2018). How to Avoid the Authoritarian Parenting Style – Babysitting. [online] Available at: http://www.babysitting.academy/how-to-avoid-the-authoritarian-parenting-style/ [Accessed 28 Sep. 2018].
Cherry, K., & Gans, S. (n.d.). Understanding Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved September 27, 2018, from https://www.verywellmind.com/erik-eriksons-stages-of-psychosocial-development-2795740
Phyllis, H. (2017). Parenting Patterns and the Impact of Culture and Context, Parent-Child Relations: Context, Research, and Application Fourth Edition (pp. 27-51). Pearson Higher Ed USA