4 Reasons Why Controlling Parenting Doesn’t Work

In the previous article, we looked at the most common signs of controlling parenting. Here, we will expand on why controlling child-rearing style is ineffective. 

First, one might say that it does work: you want the child to act, think or feel a certain way, and controlling parenting can achieve exactly that. Coercion works when the goal is to make someone do what you want them to do right then and there. There are a few glaring problems here, though. 

Four reasons why controlling child-rearing doesn’t work

1. It’s morally wrong 

It is morally wrong to use aggressive force, threats, or manipulation to make others comply to your wants. If you accept that children are human beings too, which most people probably do accept (at least in theory), then this method is simply unacceptable. If we were use aggressive force, threats, or manipulation against anybody else in our lives – a spouse, stranger, parent, friend, or coworker – our actions would be identified as either assault or threat of assault, and rightfully so.

There’s not much else to say about that; initiating aggression or threat is plainly wrong. And more so against a small human being whose survival and well-being is completely dependent on you. It not only hurts the child in the present moment, but such behavior potentially creates a multitude of future problems.

2. It teaches the child the wrong lessons

Instead of learning to respect other people’s boundaries and self, the child learns that when there is a conflict or if others act in a way you don’t like, then there is a winner and a loser. That you have to either comply or dominate. That whoever is stronger—physically, economically, socially—wins and the other party loses. In this environment, the child develops a skewed version of reality that is by no means beneficial for themselves or others.

Meanwhile, the healthier alternative incorporates empathy, mutual respect, conversation, acceptance of personal differences, love, care, healthy boundaries, and self-direction.

3. It is only effective in short-term 

Making a child do what you want only works momentarily, when force, punishment, or a threat is present. 

From a long-term perspective, it is much more beneficial for both the child and the parent to use alternatives like negotiation, thorough explanation, empathy, curiosity, patience, inquiry, and so on. This teaches them concepts of self, others and other critical thinking skills needed in the real world. They are viewing the world realistically. 

This is why when children become bigger and stronger they become “more problematic” and “rebellious,” i.e., more difficult to control. You can’t just force or threaten them anymore, and since you didn’t spend time actually explaining things, negotiating, or treating them with respect, now they probably don’t respect you and don’t respond to negotiation well. Earlier they were not treated with respect and were not negotiated with, and so now you have no effective tools in your parenting arsenal.

In many cases, it is very difficult to change your parenting technique when the child is older because the dynamic is totally different and the child has already adopted the hierarchical authoritarian-subordinate, win-lose social template. This pretty much guarantees that the child will have numerous relationship problems and will lack valuable social and negotiation skills.

4. It strips the child out of self-interest and self-motivation

Oftentimes, parents who have a tendency to control or to be overly involved in the child’s life are well-meaning. They genuinely want to protect the child or to help them make better choices. Sadly, this often manifests itself in such behavior like not letting the child have a choice, make mistakes and learn from them, take risks, and develop a stronger sense of self, empowerment, and personal responsibility.  

As a result, the child’s normal sense of intrinsic motivation and self-interest is replaced by external motivation that stems from other people’s expectations and opinions. The child, among many other things, also becomes overly anxious about making mistakes (since they were punished for it), develops perfectionistic tendencies (since they were expected to be flawless), and loses a sense of self (since their true self was forbidden). Consequently, they don’t know who they are, what they feel and why, and what they want to do in life.  

In the next article, we will talk specifically about the actual effects and problems people who were raised in a controlling environment usually have as adults. 

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