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“The African Parenting Style”

It’s amazing how much of our personality is influenced by our family of origin and early childhood experiences. The way we see the world, our behavior, our religion, and career paths can also be strong influenced by our family. One of the ways our personalities are influenced is through discipline; we learn what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. Discipline done in an effective manner is beneficial to a child’s development. But what happens if a parent continuously uses an ineffective discipline style? The type of discipline we receive and how it is received is largely connected to the parenting styles of our parents.

In order to discuss this topic further, it is necessary to discuss the different parenting styles identified by Diana Baumrind in the 1960s. The first is Authoritarian, which is the strict and rigid parenting style and is characterized by high expectations of the children and low warmth. Authoritarian punishment is swift and severe.

The next parenting style is Authoritative, which provides the children with boundaries, but also the freedom to make decisions and learn from mistakes. This style also tends to be more democratic in nature and tends to be characterized by high expectations and high warmth. Rules and consequences are clearly laid out. Permissive parenting gives the children few boundaries because the parents and children tend to have more of a friendship than a parent-child relationship. This style is characterized by low expectations and high warmth. Therefore, discipline is minimal or non-existent. Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin later added the Neglectful style to Baumrind’s theory. This style is characterized by low expectations and low warmth. Parents tend to be uninvolved and do not place limits on their children. As such, there is no discipline or structure.

Research suggests that the authoritative parenting style has the best outcomes for children because of the balance of high expectations and high warmth. It’s likely that when a parent has this style of parenting, though their discipline methods may be the same as an authoritarian parent, a child is aware that discipline is coming from a loving place. Adults who were raised in an authoritative home are more likely to be self-assured, creative problem solvers, and good decision-makers. Conversely, adults from homes with the permissive parenting style are more likely to be unhappy, struggle academically, and have problems with authority. Adults from homes with uninvolved or neglectful parents are likely to also be unhappy and struggle with self-esteem in addition to their academics.

If we’re being honest, many of us African-raised children experienced some form of the Authoritarian parenting style. Authoritarian parenting has some benefits; children raised with this style tend to be goal-oriented and obedient, which makes sense… African-raised children are some of the most academically achieved all over the world. However, it is rare that we discuss the emotional health of African-raised children. Studies have shown that adults raised in an authoritarian household are more likely to have difficulty thinking for themselves and struggle with their self-esteem. African parents may use comparison, embarrassment, and insults to encourage high achievement. Use of these methods implies that love from parents is based on performance, also known as conditional love, as opposed to unconditional love.

Therefore, adults raised in this environment may require more external validation, especially from authority figures, to feel worthy of love, respect, accolades, etc. Because children and adults in these environments are taught conditional love early, they grow to have a distrust of people because they assume that kind gestures are connected with certain conditions and expectations. Lastly, because adults raised in an authoritarian home are used to having limited freedom to do what they want, they tend to have difficulty trusting their gut and acknowledging their feelings. Any of these sound familiar?

So how do we begin to tackle the negative effects of our parents’ parenting style?

  1. Acknowledge and Accept: The first step to making any change is acknowledging and accepting where you are. How have you been affected? How has this affected how you relate to other people? Accepting does not mean approval of the situation but rather acknowledges that the situation happened and cannot be erased.
  2. Forgive: More likely than not, your parents were doing the best they could with the resources they had. Also *whispers* they learned how to discipline and parent from their own families. Sometimes, when you only have a hammer in your toolbox, you think everything nail needs to be hammered when sometimes a nail requires a screwdriver. In wanting you to be the best, they may have used methods that may have been beneficial for your short-term achievement, but not for your long-term mental health and wellbeing. Healing begins from forgiveness. Forgiveness looks different for everyone. Sometimes, forgiveness is internal. Sometimes, forgiveness is talking with the person. Sometimes, forgiveness is distance.
  3. Pick the positive, leave the negative: With every parenting style, there are pros and cons. Much of who you are has likely been influenced by your upbringing, so it will be important to identify the traits that are helpful and the ones that are not so helpful.
  4. Unlearn: Once you have identified the attitudes, traits, and behaviors that you want to maintain, it’s time to begin the unlearning process. Take the time you need to unlearn those toxic attitudes, traits, behaviors, and biases that you were taught so that you don’t pass them down to future generations. Journal. Pray. Meditate. Talk to people you trust. Go to therapy. Heal.

Let’s hear from you! What are some positives from your parents/caregiver’s style? What are some negatives?


4 Types of Parenting Styles and Their Effects on Kids.

The Essence of the Strict Authoritarian Parenting Style and the Long Term Effects.

Parenting Styles in Africa: Which is most conducive to happiness in children?

The Pros and Cons of Authoritarian Parenting.

Author: ohstephie

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