6 Signs Of Controlling Parenting And The Long Term Effects It Has On The Child


6 Signs Of Controlling Parenting And The Long Term Effects It Has On The Child

Controlling parenting is like slow poison; the more it is fed to children, the more they die inside, little by little. This kind of parenting style is not only degrading but extremely toxic too.

“If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.” – Bette Davis

Yes, a parent cannot always play the good cop. But some parents never play the good cop. The entire crux of controlling parenting revolves around this philosophy. 

Read further to see how.

What is a controlling parenting style?

Developmental psychologists have always stressed parenting styles to determine which course of development a child follows. Parents are the primary caregivers for every child and they have a considerable impact on influencing the future of their children. What parenting style a parent adopts hugely changes the dynamics of personality formation in the children, in later years of their lives.

Through research during the 1960s, known as “Baumrind’s parenting typology”, psychologist Diana Baumrind found out four basic elements of a successful parenting style and they are: responsiveness vs. unresponsiveness and demanding vs. undemanding.

Her study further gave birth to three distinct parenting styles and they are:

1. Authoritative parenting style.

2. Authoritarian parenting style.

3. Permissive parenting style.

Baumrind believed that parents should be neither punitive nor aloof, neither too strict nor too indifferent. (2) Good parents must develop good rules for their children and apply them where possible in a very affectionate manner.  

Here, we will delve into the nitty-gritty of controlling parenting and what it’s drawbacks are.

Related: 4 Types Of Parenting Styles In Psychology: What Kind Of A Parent Are You?

Controlling parenting is also known as the Authoritarian parenting style. As the name suggests, controlling parenting is characteristic of parents who are extremely strict, demanding in nature but are not responsive towards their children. 

Controlling parenting is restrictive in nature and heavy on punishment. Parents who follow this type of parenting style demand their children to comply with their instructions and rules without questioning them. If the children question their parents as to why they have to follow their parents’ words, they will get “Because I said so.” as a reply.

These parents, according to Baumrind “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation” (Baumrind, 1991)

These parents never provide any explanation for their behavior or do not intend on getting any feedback from the children about how they are coping with the parenting set up. These types of parents have high demands from the children while having a very low responsibility towards them. Parents in such a set-up literally control their children in several possible ways.

Parents who apply this style of parenting implement spanking, screaming, shouting, threatening, and different forms of corporal punishment to discipline their children. When well-intended, these types of parenting style is meant to prepare the children to thrive, adapt, and survive harsh, unforgiving environment which they might have to face when they grow up into adults.

The ideology of such parents is to accustom their children to negatively impactful emotions like anger and aggression.  

But, Diana Baumrind has linked the controlling parenting style with the most unfortunate consequences for children’s healthy social and emotional development. Controlling style always does more harm than not. 

Here Are 6 Traits Of A Controlling Parenting Style

1. Illogical rules and orders.

One of the important traits of controlling parenting is a set of rules and regulations which are expected to be followed unconditionally by the children. These rules and regulations are representative of the parent’s whims, which makes these orders unjustified and groundless. 

As already mentioned above, the children are in no position to question the logic behind the strict, unreasonable, and unilateral rules created by the parents. 

As Baumrind said, these parents “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation.” 

“Go to sleep right now.” 

“But mom, why so early?”  

“Because I said so.” 

“You are not going to the party.”

“Dad I have already dressed up for it.” 

“Don’t argue with me. Just go and change.” 

The children have no rights to express their opinions about what their interests are, they fail to convey their problems, their limits, and boundaries. The children are left with no choice but to follow their parents without protesting. If they do not comply, they will be treated with a set of negative consequences. 

Authoritarian parenting is a restrictive, punitive parenting style in which parents make their children follow their directions and to respect their work and effort. – Santock, 2007

2. Strict punishment and disciplinary techniques.

What if the children start rebelling against their parents due to their totalitarian style of parenting? What if they protest the hostile environment they are being brought up in?

On all fronts, they will not. They know the repercussions of such acts. 

The typical mentality of a controlling parent is to impose rules on their children, expect them to uncompromisingly follow them all. If they fail to do so, they will be subjected to harsh, inhuman punishments. 

The punishments and controlling behaviours come in different forms and they are either covert or overt in nature. 

An overt or active form of control comes in the form of yelling, shouting, name-calling, verbally threatening, spanking, beating, thrashing, intimidating, invading privacy, restricting movements, and so on.

Covert or passive control comes in the form of stonewalling, silent treatment, neglect, shaming, playing the blame game, playing the victim, and other forms of manipulation. 

The child under such a condition is either forced to follow the rules through negative treatments or they are manipulated into compliance.

Related: 8 Signs You Have Controlling Parents & How To Deal With Them

3. Infantilizing.

Infantilizing literally means not treating a person according to her/his maturity in age.

In controlling parenting set up, the parents do not consider the child as an independently functioning being. The child is believed to be naive, inferior, dependent, and insignificant.

Most often controlling parents have strong narcissistic tendencies. This mindset is mostly borne out of the idea that the more free, self-sufficient, individually functional, self-reliant, and emotionally mature their children become the lesser will be their chances to control them and use them as mere objects to satisfy their narcissistic needs.

So, the parents intentionally set indisputable rules, create a surrounding where they are not allowed to acquire practical life knowledge so they can persistently exercise their control.

It is to be kept in mind that the child is brought up in such a strict, irrefutable environment that it leaves the child no chance to defend oneself and rebel against such detestable treatment.

4. Lack of parent-child transparency.

A nurturing and conducive home environment where children developmentally, emotionally, and socially require the parents to be affectionate, transparent, and considerate of their children. Which is what the belief goes.

But controlling parenting is typically characterized by a lack of proper communication (sometimes complete lack of communication) between the child and the parents.  The children are left baffled as to why their parents demand them to do as they wish. As the set rules are not properly explained to them, they often live in entire darkness.

Communication is hugely thwarted between the parents and the children. Often this leads the child to acquire maladaptive ways to regulate their emotions, improper ways to handle stress, and peer pressure. Suppose If they are getting constantly bullied at school, they will be scared to share the incident with their parents. The only legitimate relationship the parents share with their children is that of a controller and victim. 

Controlling parents communicate to ‘talk to their children’ rather than ‘with their children’ and do not consult with their children when making decisions. (3)

I call the children a victim because they literally get operated, almost like puppets. Due to the disparity in power division between the children and the parents, the children begin to get terrorized by them. This results in furthering the mental gap between them. 

5. Unrealistic expectations and ‘doomed if failed to fulfill them’ scenarios. 

Children brought up in a set-up of controlling parenting styles are burdened with unrealistic, simply unattainable, implausible tasks and expectations that become impossible for them to accomplish. If they fail to fulfill the expectations, they are punished in the most punitive ways possible. 

They might be insulted, verbally abused, and even physically trashed if they fail to do the task in the exact way they are supposed to do it. On top of it, the child is also not even explained properly as to what they have to do. 

Suppose your mother asks you to bring particular stuff from the grocery, you bring something almost similar because the exact item wasn’t available. You will still have to face negative outcomes for no actual fault of yours. She might start guilt-tripping and criticizing you in the most insane ways possible.

Related: 6 Signs Of Controlling Parenting And The Effects It Has On The Child

6. Non-empathetic and neglectful parents.

A child raised by controlling parents has no idea about the virtues of empathy, care, affection, and warmth.

Controlling parents fail to meet the emotional requirements of the child, like their need to be cared for, loved, considered, and understood, even though they are often successful in providing the child with financial, academic, and materialistic support. 

Instead of trying to improve the child’s sense of self, the parents’ criticizing, demeaning, and overbearing behavior only ends up destroying their self-confidence, distorting their self-image, and lowering their self-esteem.

For instance, if the child is going through a hard phase in his/her life, instead of showing him/her empathy and understanding what he/she desperately needs, the child might be humiliated, disregarded, neglected, and left on their own.

What effects do controlling parenting have on the child?

Controlling parenting is in no way a favorable technique to raise your child. The following are the reasons:

1. Effects of controlling parenting on self-reliance.

Controlling parents will invariably try to shape, control, and evaluate the behaviors of their children by their set of principles and not based on the children’s potentials, adversities, or interests. The children are given little choice and have to follow their parents’ orders (Gfroerer et al., 2004).

Hovering behavior on the parts of the parents, leave the children with no choice but to follow their parents’ rules. The parents always want to monitor the children’s behavior – like where they are going, what they are doing, and who their companions are. The parents even take up the responsibility to make decisions for their children. 

These types of irrational behaviors on the parent’s part greatly cripple the organic flow of the child’s overall development. The child never grows up to have the ability to make reasonable choices for themselves.

As Suldo & Huebner(2004) said, the children do not have opportunities to decide what they want and as a result become less self-confident. This increases the chances of them being highly co-dependent on their partners in their later lives. These children as adults lack a sense of self-responsibility and self-accountability.

They grow up to lack direction in life and believe that they do not have the required resources available within themselves to succeed in life. 

2. Effects of controlling parenting on self-esteem.

Other researchers found that compared to children who received warmth and acceptance from their parents, children who are controlled by their parents may display low self-esteem. (4)

As already mentioned earlier, controlling parents resort to criticizing, insulting, disregarding, and belittling their children as a means to punish them when they fail to live up to their expectations. Often times criticisms have no basis at all. They will mostly emerge out of the blue and come flying at the face, leaving the child baffled and astonished as to what his/her fault was.

When a child faces these harsh behaviors over a prolonged period of time, their self-esteem is greatly lowered and their self-identity gets distorted. They start underrating themselves, giving in to dysfunctional self-beliefs and overgeneralizing their incapabilities. 

Related: Six Kinds of Emotional Abuse by Narcissistic Parents

3. Effects of controlling parenting on the child’s life satisfaction.

Controlling parenting style significantly reduces the life satisfaction in children brought up under such a punitive environment. 

Leung, McBride-Chang, and Lai (2004) demonstrated that the element of control may cause children to feel unhappy and extremely dissatisfied with their life.

The general deterioration in the quality of life often results in depressive symptoms in the child. Several researchers also found that controlling parenting and depression are strongly correlated. (5) In a study on parenting style and depression among adolescents, Joshi et al. (2009) found that adolescents who lived with controlling parents had more depression than those who lived with authoritative parents.

More often than not, children brought up by controlling parents grow up to be abusive adults. They either engage in adult relationships where they continue to carry forward the techniques of manipulation from their parents and apply them to their partners or later on adopt the same ideologies of parenting for their children.

They fail to learn to set personal boundaries in their adulthood. This is because ever since their childhood, they did not have any personal boundaries. They were treated as an extension of their parents where their boundaries were fused to that of their parents. This gets carried on in the future and they lack a proper sense of boundary, leading to them being more susceptible to emotional and psychological abuse. 

“We grow up in a belief system according to which children should always make their parents proud and happy (instead of making themselves proud and happy) – and that’s, unfortunately, the belief system in most cultures.” ― Lukasz Laniecki


Baumrind, D. (1967). Childcare practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75(1), 43-88.
Santrock, J.W. (2007). A topical approach to life-span development, third Ed.New York: McGraw-Hill.
Alegre, 2011; Baumrind, 1971; Grolnick & Pomerantz, 2009; Leman, 2005
Barnow, Lucht, & Freyberger, 2005; Patock-Peckham & Morgan-Lopez, 2009
Milevsky et al., 2007; 2008; Patock-Peckham & Morgan-Lopez, 2009

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