Danielle Aubin, LCSW
Authoritarian Parenting vs Bullying
Bullys aren't born, they are made. So what factors contribute to making someone into a bully? A large contributing factor is how a child is parented. Were they provided warmth, responsiveness, and respect? Or were they publicly humiliated, hit, and secluded in time out? Many authoritarian parents justify their parenting style by saying that their harsh techniques create well-behaved, rule-following members of society. Authoritarian is basically adults bullying children. Please allow me to make my case.
There are 4 general parenting styles recognized by the field of psychology derived from the work of Diana Baumrind who was a developmental psychologist in the 60's. These styles are permissive, authoritarian, authoritative, and uninvolved.
Most research has shown that authoritative parenting (like this one) is the approach with the best outcomes for kids. Permissive parenting, per research, can cause children to have less opportunities for developing self-reliance because of lack of guidance. Uninvolved is basically not parenting your children at all.
Authoritarian parenting is generally defined as strict and inflexible. They exert control over their children by using methods such as physical/psychological/emotional punishment. Children are expected to be obedient to adults.
Bullying is a huge issue in schools and other settings with groups of children. According to a meta-analysis of 80 studies, over 49 percent of children in grades 4 to 12 reported being bullied. So what is bullying? Bullying is generally defined as unwanted, aggressive among school-aged children and usually involves a power imbalance. Bullying can include:
Saying/writing mean things (insulting, taunting, threatening, name-calling, teasing)
Social Bullying (publicly humiliating someone, social ostracism)
Physical bullying (hitting/kicking/harming someone's body)
Bullying vs. Authoritarian Parenting
One can't help but notice there are parallels here. For example, bullies and authoritarian parents exploit a power imbalance, using public humiliation, name-calling, physical pain, threats, teasing, social isolation, and taking someone's property. If authoritarian parents were magically changed into children and went into schools treating other kids the way they treated their children, we would call them bullies.
So why don't authoritarian parents realize they are bullying their children? Because they believe they are justified and that it is beneficial for their children. Authoritarian parents have a worldview that sees children as disobedient, lazy, delinquents who need to be whipped into shape by a dominant, inflexible ruler. According to them, if we left children to their own devices, children would be awful humans.
When The Bullies Are Your Parents
If you look up advice on how to deal with bullying, a lot of advice will tell you to walk away or assert your rights and say "STOP!" But what if your parents are the bullies? What if you've been bullied your whole life through corporal punishment, being yelled at, publicly humiliated, and teased? You can't just successfully yell "STOP!" and get away if you live with the bullies. And that is why authoritarian parenting is so damaging. Children have to wait 16, 18, 20 years before they are able to finally escape. And their parents may never truly understand how they harmed their children.