I know I’m guilty of trying not to stare while a parent yells at her screaming child in the grocery store, or I’ve wondered how a family could let their kids play Ring-Around-The-Rosy in the middle of a restaurant. It might be because I don’t have kids yet, but already, I have a strong opinion on the subject.
I have two half-brothers who are two and six and I babysit them all the time. Being 20 and 22 years older than them, I feel like I am more like their mother than their older sister. Disciplining them when they are with me seems to come naturally, and I think it’s because I believe we are all a product of what we know and what we were taught when we were younger.
In college, I took a Communications Conflict course. The very first day we were ordered to stand under the card that most represented the household we grew up in. The three cards read Authoritarian, Passive and Authoritative:
Authoritarian: Unquestioned obedience of the child is required. Little explanation is given and the child is expected to accept the rules unquestioningly. Rewards are avoided for fear of spoiling the child. Emphasis is on corporal punishment for misbehavior.
Passive: Complete freedom of the child is allowed. The child provides the discipline; no control or authority is given. Few rules and little guidance or explanations are given. The child is expected to derive satisfaction from the social approval that good behavior brings. The child learns from the consequences of the act that he has done the wrong thing.
Authoritative: Control from within the child is the outcome desired. The parent, other adult or child provides the discipline from “within”. The major emphasis is on explaining the meaning of rules and repeating them until the child learns them. Praise is used lavishly for right behavior or an attempt on the child’s part to do what he knows is expected. The child is given an opportunity to explain why he misbehaved before being punished. Corporal punishment is used infrequently.
I found myself gravitating towards Authoritarian and Authoritative.
I grew up with a mother who was raised in a strict, conservative, military household, and a father whose family dynamic was dysfunctional to say the least. What resulted was what I still believe to be a strong mix of both Authoritarian (parents are always right, no questions asked, spankings as punishment) and Authoritative — thinking for yourself was promoted and cultivated, arguing your point was welcome, and creativity was nurtured.
What resulted were two children who are ambitious, independent, respectful of adults and team players. This is what I hope my two youngest brothers will become and I hope to be a strong influence in that department. My step-mother is definitely more Passive than Authoritative and I find myself struggling to reconcile with her decisions.
I know that neither her way nor mine is right, but I can’t help feeling that my way is more right. I am sure she feels the same. Either way I know my step-brothers are loved and will turn out just fine. Like, I said, it’s all subjective. It wouldn’t be fun if we were all alike, being raised differently is one of the things that makes us all unique.
What is your parenting “style?” Do you believe you are more right in the way you discipline?
For more information on the three types of discipline, please see links below.