The Art of Raising Considerate Children
As you enforce rules and boundaries, it's important to remember the goals of the discipline you impose – it doesn't mean punishment or conflict between parent and child. Establishing self-control is a gradual process, its ultimate goal being to help children build their own self control – not simply to have them obey commands from authority. Compare the pros and cons of three parenting approaches to fulfilling this essential developmental goal.
What You Need to Know
Discipline means helping a child:
- learn appropriate behavior
- learn what expected rules and boundaries are all about
- experience consequences of his behavior
- learn from his mistakes
Three styles of discipline:
- Authoritarian – strict – controls behavior and attitude by stressing obedience, discouraging discussion, and relying on punishment
- Authoritative – moderate – sets limits, relying on natural, logical consequences for children to learn from mistakes; explains why rules are as they are; considers their children's point of view even when not in agreement; firm, kind, warm and loving about setting high standards to encourage independence
- Permissive – indulgent – exerts minimal control, allowing children to set their own rules, schedules and activities, rarely demanding high levels of behavior
Meet the children of the above parents:
- Authoritarian/Strict – results in timid, withdrawn children who are dependent on the voice of authority and less intellectually curious
- Authoritative/Moderate – results in responsible, cooperative, self-reliant, intellectually curious children with strong self-concept (We have a winner!)
- Permissive/Indulgent – results in immature children who are reluctant to accept responsibility or demonstrate independence
How You Can Help
To raise considerate, cooperative, flexible children, you must be an effective model:
- Establish fair, simple rules, and state them clearly.
- Show your child how to use words rather than actions to express feelings.
- Even when disciplining your child, express that you understand what your child is feeling: “I know it can be annoying when someone skips you in the lunch line, but it's still not okay to shove.”
- Ignoring some behaviors will be enough to make them disappear, when your child is acting out to get attention. Repeatedly nagging only encourages such behaviors to continue. Return focus to your child once he's doing the right thing, to acknowledge the behavior you want to encourage with positive reinforcement rather than calling attention to behaviors you want to end.
- Allow natural consequences to drive home a point and teach your child what he needs to learn from his mistakes without you even meddling.
- Don't dictate – negotiate. This allows both you and your child to feel like solutions to the problem and enables your child to feel like he's being offered choices rather than being forced. Think carefully about the choices you offer. (For instance, not whether or not to take his horrible-tasting medicine – but whether to take it with juice or a milkshake)
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