News Stories

Too Strict? You're Creating a Juvenile Delinquent

"Spare the rod and spoil the child" may seem like good parental advice, but it's doesn't work: Authoritarian parents are more likely to raise disrespectful, delinquent children who do not see them as legitimate authority figures than authoritative parents who listen to their children and gain their respect and trust.

Psychologist Rick Trinkner says, "When children consider their parents to be legitimate authority figures, they trust the parent and feel they have an obligation to do what their parents tell them to do. This is an important attribute for any authority figure to possess, as the parent does not have to rely on a system of rewards and punishments to control behavior, and the child is more likely to follow the rules when the parent is not physically present.

"Little is known about why some parenting styles are more efficient than others. Our results showed that parental legitimacy was an important mechanism by which parenting styles affected adolescent behavior."

Permissiveness isn't the answer either--these parents are nondemanding and noncontrolling. They tend to be warm and receptive to their children’s needs, but place few boundaries on their children. If they do establish rules, they rarely enforce them to any great extent. These parents tend to produce children who are the least self-reliant, explorative, and self-controlled out of all the parenting styles.

Parents are more likely to be viewed as legitimate authorities if they utilize authoritative parenting practices rather than authoritarian or permissive practices, which tend to undermine parental authority. Authoritative parents are both demanding and controlling, but they are also warm and receptive to their children's needs.

Trinkner says, "Our data offer further evidence that authoritative parenting is an effective way for parents to successfully socialize their children and that its influence works largely through its effect on youth perceptions of parental legitimacy."

Interestingly enough, attentiveness in kindergarten accurately predicts the development of "work-oriented" skills in school children.

Elementary school teachers made observations of attention skills in over a thousand kindergarten children, then later, when these kids were in grades 1 to 6, their homeroom teachers rated how well the children worked both autonomously and with fellow classmates, their levels of self-control and self-confidence, and their ability to follow directions and rules.

Psychologist Linda Pagani says, "For children, the classroom is the workplace, and this is why productive, task-oriented behavior in that context later translates to the labor market. Children who are more likely to work autonomously and harmoniously with fellow classmates, with good self-control and confidence, and who follow directions and rules are more likely to continue such productive behaviors into the adult workplace. In child psychology, we call this the developmental evolution of work-oriented skills, from childhood to adulthood."

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