Parenting Styles: Two Different Reactions

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
– Mahatma Gandhi

Imagine the following scenario: A seven-year-old boy is caught stealing a game from a local toy store.

Now envision two different parents responding to the same situation:

The first parent screams at the boy that he is going to wind up in jail, calls him untrustworthy and a sneak, sends him to his room, and grounds him for a month. No explanation is given about why what he did was wrong or how he can fix the problem.

The second parent tells the boy how disappointed he is and lets him know that in their family, people do not take things that do not belong to them. He has the child think about what would happen if everyone took whatever they wanted and asks him to consider how the owner of the store might feel about his merchandise being stolen. This parent gets his son’s input about how the child could make amends – making sure that either the toy is returned or the boy finds a way to re-pay the owner. Furthermore, the parent helps the child decide what he is going to say to the owner when they go together to the store. This parent knows that it is not totally unusual, or indicative of a future life lived as a criminal, for seven-year-olds to pilfer; he also knows that he has to impress upon the child that stealing is wrong.

Which child do you think would be angry at his parent and focus on his resentment toward his parent rather than on what he did wrong? Which one do you think would attempt to steal again if no one were around who might catch him in the act? If you answered child number one, you would be right.

Which child do you think would be more likely to learn that stealing is not acceptable? Which one would feel that although he made a mistake, he can learn from it, make amends, and restore his own and his parent’s positive view of him? Which one will more likely take responsibility for his actions now and in the future? Which boy would feel that his parent is there to support him to get through life’s challenges?

If you answered child number two, you would be right. Although it takes more time, effort, and thought to teach children life’s lessons in a way that they can make them their own, it is a much more powerful approach.

By Audrey Krisbergh, Certified Parenting Educator
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