What Do You Want for Your Children? (2)

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     Our children don't come with instruction manuals. What we know about being a parent, we learned from our parents. We typically make our choice about parenting style based on acceptance or on opposition. Our parenting style most likely falls between two extremes: the traditional, autocratic style that promotes control through rewards, punishment, intimidation, and imposition of strict limits, or the permissive style that poses no limits and provides no guidance.

     Although punishment and rewards may get immediate results, they are not a long-term solution. Punishment provides external fear motivation rather than the internal choice motivation that we desire for our children, and suggests that acceptable behavior is expected only in the presence of an authority figure. This makes the parent responsible for the child's behavior. Punishment puts the focus on the hurt that the parent is causing, rather than on the child's responsibility for his mistake. Punishment reinforces the child's decision that he is bad, rather than that his action goes against the natural or social order. To be effective, both rewards and punishment must escalate as the child gets older. If we control our children when they are little by overpowering them, we will likely lose control when they are teenagers.

     The statement "spare the rod and spoil the child", normally thought of as applying to physical punishment, actually refers to the lack of guidance by the permissive parent. The "rod" was a staff used by shepherds to guide sheep, not to beat them. Children who grow up without limits feel insecure. They are often self-indulgent and expect that the people around them will be their servants.

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Glenna O. Auxier


Robert J. Perchalski, Ph.D.
Curriculum Coordinator

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