Intro to Positive Discipline – Parenting Styles

by Heligirl on February 25, 2010

in Parenting Articles,Parenting Tidbits,Positive Discipline

In an effort to share what I’m learning and help others understand more about compassionate and connection parenting, and positive discipline, I’m starting a new category titled Parenting Articles where I’ll write more serious and helpful articles filled with resources. Depending on time, I’m hoping I’ll be able to write them weekly, or at the very least, offer a link to something valuable I found. Thanks for reading!

I took the Puget Sound Adlerian Society’s Sanity Circus class last winter, which focused on the basics of Positive Discipline as well as Connection Parenting and Adlerian Theory (where many of these parenting styles stem from). This class was filled with parents of children from babies to teenagers, all looking for insight on a parenting style that focused on cooperation instead of power struggles. I’d only just begun to learn about Positive Discipline through Sweetness’s preschool and was excited to learn more.

There were two main things they covered the first day of class that really stood out to me and I think of them often when parenting and talking to folks about my own parenting style.

The first is the description of how the nuclear family has changed and, as a result, how children and their needs have changed. It all boils down to a major change in our society. Pre-WWII kids were an important part of a family’s survival. Seventy-five percent of us were living rurally, working together for our mutual family survival, and we all had a job in the family. Kids knew their significance and value to the family and almost immediately began to learn a sense of self worth and purpose in the family unit. You helped with growing, preparing and storing the food; keeping the house up; caring for the animals; caring for siblings etc. It’s this sense of self worth and purpose that we all need in life and when children got it from the beginning, issues like rebellion were hardly experienced.

Post-WWII we moved into cities and modern conveniences came into our lives. Parents started working outside the home. Kids began to lose their place, sense of purpose and significance in the family and thus began to develop ways of behaving that gave them purpose. A sense of belonging and purpose is the main goal of us all, and very basic in children. When they lose this, they act out in an attempt to find it. Understanding this and parenting in a way that gives children purpose, helps bring belonging and purpose to their lives. Parenting in this manner helps the kids develop decision making skills and build a strong self esteem.

The class then went on for the next six weeks describing examples and not only did the light bulb come on, but I also started seeing specifically how my parents raised me (which years of therapy helped me determine was NOT how I wanted to raise my children) and I began to learn how I could clearly raise my children to avoid those pitfalls.

The second thing that stood out for me is the parenting styles. There are three main basic styles most of us were raised through. The first is Authoritarian. This is the “brick wall parent.” All firmness and little kindness. You know the type – the parents are in charge, the child must obey, there is not much respect for the child (if any). There is a lot of “because I said so,” parenting through guilt and fear. This tends to create rebellious teens or send the kids to therapy in their 30s and 40s. I about cried when they mentioned this. They were describing my childhood with one exception, I got started in my post-childhood therapy in my 20s and still have issues with my mom.

The second style is Permissive – all kindness and no firmness. These are the parents that went the opposite of the Authoritarian ones, possibly because they were brow beaten as kids. There were no rules at all for these kids and the kids were in charge. The children were given everything they asked for with no limits. There was no structure. This leads to spoiled and also rebellious kids. Children need predictable structure to build their self worth.

The final one was Democratic/Positive. These are “backbone parents” that are both kind and firm. Kindness shows respect for the child. Firmness shows respect for yourself. It focuses on teaching kids how to think, not what to think. This is what we learned in the class, and continue to learn through books, websites, and parent groups.

Well, there was one more style, and that was neglect – neither kind nor firm – to round out the styles. But it could be argued this isn’t a parenting style as no parenting is involved.

Just knowing the history of how the family unit has evolved and how parenting styles work really helped lay the foundation for understanding the slew of information that came next. And that information started with this simple direction: treat children as equals (meaning their thoughts, feelings and sensibilities are as equally important as your own, even if they’re in appropriate at the time), treat them with respect (never treat a child in a way you wouldn’t want to be treated) and foster cooperation (work with the kids, not ordering them around and then call their obeying cooperation.)

That should be enough to get you thinking. I’ll post more on this topic next week. You can find links to all my Parenting Articles by clicking on Parenting Articles in the Categories section to the right.

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