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What’s Wrong with Strict Parenting?

Research shows that most people think strict parenting produces better-behaved kids. However, research studies on discipline consistently show that strict, or authoritarian, child-raising actually produces kids with lower self esteem who behave worse than other kids — and therefore get punished more! Strict parenting actually creates behavior problems in children. Why?

1. Strict parenting deprives kids of the opportunity to internalize self-discipline and responsibility.

Harsh limits may temporarily control behavior, but they don’t help a child learn to self-regulate. Instead, harsh limits trigger a resistance to taking responsibility for themselves. There is no internal tool more valuable for kids than self-discipline, but it develops from the internalization of loving limits. No one likes to be controlled, so it’s not surprising that kids reject limits that aren’t empathic. They see the “locus of control” outside of themselves, rather than WANTING to behave.

2. Authoritarian parenting — limits without empathy — is based on fear. It teaches kids to bully.

Kids learn what they live and what you model, right? Well, if kids do what you want because they fear you, how is that different than bullying? If you yell, they’ll yell. If you use force, they’ll use force.

3. Kids raised with punitive discipline have tendencies toward anger and depression.

That’s because authoritarian child raising makes it clear to kids that part of them is not acceptable, and that parents aren’t there to help them learn to cope and manage those difficult feelings that drive them to act out. They’re left lonely, trying to sort out for themselves how to overcome their “lesser” impulses.

4. Kids raised with strict discipline learn that power is always right.

They learn to obey, but they don’t learn to think for themselves. Later in life, they won’t question authority when they should. They’re less likely to take responsibility for their actions and more willing to follow the peer group, or to dodge responsibility by saying that they were only trying to “follow orders.”

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).