Ease Up On Your Kid Unless You Want To Raise The Next Rush Limbaugh

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Parenting styles and childhood temperament may actually shape your child’s future political ideologies, so unless you want to raise a conservative jerk – you better take the strictness down a notch.

In a new study, a team of researchers led by psychological scientist R. Chris Fraley, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that children who had authoritarian parents are more likely to be Republicans when they grow up. Children whose parents had more egalitarian parenting attitudes, on the other hand, were more likely to hold liberal attitudes as young adults.

My husband is constantly accusing me of not being strict enough with my son.  He came to this conclusion because my toddler doesn’t listen to a damn thing I say.  Seriously, I could repeat “no” all day and try various techniques to correct his behavior – but they all seem lost on the little tyrant.  I’m being a little dramatic, here.  He’s a good kid.  He doesn’t throw tantrums in public or scream all day long.  He’s just a little stubborn.  So basically, I choose my battles.

This is not to say that I don’t discipline him – I’m just not convinced that every little misstep deserves a time out.  His father is the exact opposite.  All day long he’s correcting his behavior and raising his tone.  Of course, the little man listens to him.  I’m pretty sure the only reason for this obedience is the bass in his father’s voice – but whatever.  Now I have a great excuse for being the “good cop.”  I’m raising a future tree-hugging liberal who will champion the cause of women’s rights and fight tooth and nail for green energy solutions.  Yay, me.

The study also found that childhood temperament had a lot to do with future political ideologies, too.

In terms of temperament, children with higher levels of fearfulness at 54 months were more likely to be conservative at age 18, while children with higher levels of activity or restlessness and higher levels of attentional focusing were more likely to espouse liberal values at that age, the researchers report.

High levels of activity – check.  Restlessness – check.  High levels of attentional focusing – hmm. The jury is still out on that one.  Does being able to sit through a nightly reading of Goodnight Moon count?

Who knows if studies like this one actually mean anything?   But it doesn’t hurt to know that we might be able to consciously manipulate – I mean – guide our children into becoming the future human beings we think the world needs.  My parents clearly dropped the ball on disciplining me. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

(photo: Jeffrey Collingwood/


  1. ngibbons

    October 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Gosh, I wouldn’t want my child to grow up to be wildly successful and capable of articulating their beliefs! Or, maybe, you might want to consider that many moms would much rather raise a conservative (though not necessarily a “jerk”), than a “future tree-hugging liberal.” I would be supremely disappointed if my children grew up to be liberal, I would feel like I had failed to instill my values in them.

    I have been reading Mommyish regularly for about a year, and I can honestly say this is the last time I will ever visit this site. It used to be a fun site where moms could go to read about being a mom. The last few months, it has become a liberal propaganda machine. Has anyone on Mommyish thought that it might be nice to hear another viewpoint every once in a while?

    How dare you accuse parents who discipline of raising jerks? Also, what you stated about the study basically boils down to this – “A kid raised with strict parents is going to be conservative, unless, of course, the kid’s personality indicates otherwise.” Stupid, pointless excuse for you to insult a conservative (by the way, Rush-hating is SO last year. That stopped being relevant around that time that Sandra Fluke stopped mattering). Congratulations on patting yourself on the back for raising an undisciplined hippie. Yay, you.

    • Guerrilla Mom

      October 30, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Sorry. The real point of the article should have been that liberals have a better sense of humor and understand sarcasm.

  2. Christine

    October 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Fwiw, my parents were super strict, my husband’s parents were even stricter, and while we are both successful professionals, we are the farthest thing from conservative. Strictness is one thing, but instilling a sense of empathy pretty much guarantees you will raise a dirty hippy (or is it hippie?)

    The reason I vote liberal is that I worked my way through school, I lived paycheque to paycheque, and I know exactly how close I came to needing that social safety net. No one wants to be unemployed, no one wants to be homeless, no one wants to need help, but some people do. If I have to give tax money to ensure that their kids eat regularly and have homes and diapers and aren’t going without basic necessities, then that’s what I will do, because the thought of anything else breaks my heart.

    And I will continue reading Mommyish, because its one of the only parenting sites I can stand. Oh, and if my daughter grows up to be a conservative, I’ll still support her, but as with all conservatives, I will totally not get it.

    • Mary

      October 28, 2012 at 8:56 am

      christine, to suggest that Conservatives don’t care about other people’s well-being is a horrible misconception. People have been “safety netted” under all administrations. They are more so now under the current administration because there are no jobs!

  3. CW

    October 27, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    As my stats professor used to hammer into us, correlation does NOT equal causation. Studies of twins who were adopted by different families have found temperament is mostly biologically-based and highly heritable. Parents who are by nature more conservative will tend to be more attracted to a firm discipline style of parenting, and their kids will inherit that conservative temperament. Parents who are by nature more liberal will tend to be more attractive to a permissive parenting style, and their kids will inherit that liberal temperament.

    • Justme

      October 28, 2012 at 9:25 am

      I see what you’re saying but I think that there is just entirely too much gray in raising children to be able to definitively say this, that or the other about how a child grows up to be liberal or conservative. My parents were strict and held my brothers and myself to high standards and expectations when it came to behavior and education. But yet, all three of us are liberals whereas my parents are traditionally conservative. It has nothing to do with rebelling against such a strict upbringing – there was plenty of love and compassion mixed in there as well. We all have a great relationship with our mother and father. I think you have to take into account so much more than just the parenting style when determining causation for political leanings.

  4. CW

    October 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Oh, and being a jerk is not a factor of conservative vs. liberal, but of a failure to teach one’s kids civility. There are plenty of polite conservatives and jerky liberals.

  5. To Celebrate Women

    October 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I don’t care if my hypothetical kids turn out conservative, but I do care if they turn out like Rush Limbaugh. Hint – there’s a gigantic difference. Really ridiculous article.

  6. samsam

    October 28, 2012 at 12:20 am

    There are plenty of liberal A-holes too. Why do people who claim to be of the “tolerant” party say the most intolerant things? What a hypocrite. I agree with the other poster about this site – I used to thoroughly enjoy almost every article, but lately it has just become a liberal propaganda machine and any comment that has anything remotely moderate or conservative gets downgraded and bashed. I like the variety of reading a site like this with a lot of different columnists, but lately you can’t tell since they all have the same message. I cannot WAIT until election season is over. Ugh!!!!!!

  7. Mary

    October 28, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I was raised by a single working mother and I had ZERO restrictions, she was as lenient as they come and I grew up to be a Conservative. So there goes that ‘study’.
    I agree with the commenters, a majority of these stories and left leaning and don’t have the viewpoint of the right (which make up about half the country). Way to alienate half your readers.

  8. Justme

    October 28, 2012 at 8:35 am

    I think you’re leaving out one of the key factors in the study – the presence of fear. From what I understood after reading a more thorough interpretation of the study, the presence of fear (not necessarily of the parents, but of hell, damnation, people or things who are different, etc.) plays an important role in shaping the conservative or liberal values a child might grow up to embrace.

    My parents always voted conservatively when I was growing up but yet they still taught me about helping the poor, sick and unfortunate. They might have been fiscally and socially conservative but that doesn’t mean they didn’t teach me about accepting and loving others. Possibly as a result of this love and help everyone mentality, I turned out to be a fairly liberal adult.

    But then my dad, born and raised in the oil fields of west Texas, voted for Obama last election. Blew my mind….in the best way possible.

  9. Mary C

    October 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    I think some of the posters on here may be overreacting a bit. Nowhere in this article that I’ve found does the author say that conservative=bad. She mentions Limbaugh in the headline, true, but to be fair he is a very extreme version of a conservative. He’s a very public figure, so he is fair game as far as I am concerned (the same way Jon Stewart might be mentioned derisively froma Republican point of view). The headline makes the content seem a bit more sensational than it actually is.
    What i got from the article is that she is liberal, so she is happy that, according to the study, her child will likely turn out liberal too. I believe most parents would be happy if their children shared their beliefs.
    In other words, relax, people!

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