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Article of Interest - Parenting

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What’s Your Parenting Style?

Dr. Thomas Phelan,, October 2005

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Promoting the self-discipline and self-esteem of one’s children often requires an emotional juggling act by parents. It is not easy to be firm and demanding one minute, then warm and affectionate the next. In addition, some adults naturally have personalities or temperaments that predispose them toward one parenting style or the other.


Authoritarian Parenting


Parents who tend to overemphasize the discipline side of the equation are referred to as authoritarian. Authoritarian parents are demanding in the worst sense of the word. They are intimidators, requiring obedience and respect above all else. They become overly angry and forceful when they don’t get that obedience and respect. Their love and acceptance appear totally conditional to the child. They do not listen to their kids or explain the reason for their expectations, which are frequently unrealistic. They often see their children’s individuality and independence as irrelevant or threatening.


Research has shown that authoritarian parents tend to produce children who are more withdrawn, anxious, mistrustful and discontented. These children are often overlooked by their peers. Their self-esteem is often poor.


Permissive Parenting


Parents who overemphasize the self-esteem side of the equation are referred to as permissive. They may be warm and supportive, but they are not good disciplinarians. They make only weak demands for good behavior and they tend to avoid or ignore obnoxious behavior. They seem to believe that children should grow up without any anger, tears or frustrations. They reinforce demanding and inconsiderate behavior from their children. Their love and acceptance are “unconditional” in the worst sense of the word, for they set few limits on what their children do.


Research has shown that permissive parents tend to produce children who are more immature, demanding and dependent. These children are often rejected by their peers. Their self-esteem is often unrealistic and hard to interpret, for they often blame others for their misfortunes.


The Authoritative Parenting Model


Parents who are able to provide for both the discipline and self-esteem needs of their youngsters are referred to as authoritative. They clearly communicate high—but not unrealistic—demands for their children’s behavior. They expect good things from their kids and reinforce those things when they occur. When kids act up, on the other hand, authoritative parents respond with firm limits, but without fits of temper. They are warm, reasonable and sensitive to a child’s needs. They are supportive of a child’s individuality and encourage growing independence.


Authoritative parents tend to produce competent children. These kids are more self-reliant, self-controlled and happier. They are usually accepted and well-liked by their peers. Their self-esteem is good.


Logic and research, then, support the idea that children need both discipline and self-esteem to grow up psychologically healthy. Parenting expert Dr. Thomas W. Phelan deals with both sides of the equation in his best-selling book, 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, and to a large extent, in its “sequel,” Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go of Your 13-18 Year Olds, which also recognizes the need to respect the growing independence of the adolescent. To learn more visit .


Quick Tip: How to Get Your Kids to Pick Up

The 55-Gallon Metal Drum
This idea was described to me by a woman I spoke with on the phone many years ago. She told me that picking up around her house had never been a problem. This resourceful mother kept a 55-gallon, metal drum in the garage, which was right next to her kitchen. Whenever she would find anything of her children’s that was out of place, she would simply put the items into the metal drum.

This procedure had become so routine with her four boys, that whenever one of the kids couldn’t find something of his, he would simply look in the drum. For example, her second oldest came running into the kitchen one day and exclaimed, “Mom, I can’t find my gym shoes. Are they in the drum?” “Yes,” was mother’s reply, and the incident was over. You say you don’t happen to have a 55-gollon drum handy or your kids couldn’t reach in there if you did? A large box will do fine.

Adapted from: 1-2-3 Magic Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, New 3RD Edition by Dr. Thomas Phelan

This award-winning, best-selling program provides three simple steps to raising well-behaved, happy, competent youngsters. Available in book, video and DVD formats. To learn more visit


Used with permission. Copyright © 2005


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