The parenting style of authoritarian parenting (also considered traditional parenting) is a style that is based on strict discipline and a sense of “power over.” This parenting style, often used by co-parents, also tends to be manipulative and fear-based in its motives while relying on bribes, rewards and punishments. Its most concerning effect is that it compromises the connection between you and your child. Many of us default to this style of parenting because that’s how we were raised and it’s all we know, but we are capable of growing and evolving.
What is Coercive Control?
Coercive control is an attempt to influence the child, when the parent ends up taking advantage of the child’s desire for love and approval. In other words, coercive control = authoritarian discipline.
Coercion can come in the form of:
- Withdrawing love
- Teasing in degrading ways
- Sarcasm or condescending remarks
- Invalidating feelings, thoughts or ideas
Rewards and punishments are another form of coercion. The following are examples of rewards, punishments, and time-outs:
Example 1: REWARD – “If you eat all your veggies, you can have dessert.”
Example 2: PUNISHMENT – “If you don’t eat all your veggies, you won’t get dessert!”
The first example uses bribery in order for the child to get the reward. The second one puts the child in a position where he is forced to do something in order to get something. Both are forms of trying to get your child to do what you want them to do and not necessarily about meeting his needs or creating a respectful relationship that honors authentic communication. Plus, you are inadvertently modeling manipulation to your child.
Solution for both, for this particular parenting style: While making dinner, offer a couple of options for vegetables to see which one your child would like to eat. When you give children choices, it can help them feel a part of the process. Perhaps even ask them if they would like to prepare cook the meal with you.
Even going to the Farmer’s Market together and getting to know the farmers or even growing your own garden are all great suggestions. Welcoming your child into the process of farming, growing and cooking meals together is a wonderful way for your child to explore different types of produce all the while building connection. And if they are still adamant about not wanting to try vegetables, perhaps prepare it in a different form, such as a smoothie. But the key here is to continue offering vegetables to your child without forcing it.
Change is difficult and if you have some authoritarian tendencies, your first step is to recognize them and see if there are some improvements to be made. If you see authoritarian tendencies in your co-parent, it is important to try and have a discussion on how you want to raise your children and keeping the conversation on the benefits and drawbacks to different parenting styles.