As parents we are bombarded with advice almost daily on which of the parenting styles to adopt. One issue where others feel compelled to comment on is the issues of discipline, and what the correct type of discipline is. Is it tough love?
Positive discipline in the early years consists many times of removing a child from the situation, redirecting their behavior and putting them in time out. As a child grows we begin to add such things as taking away privileges, having the child engage in certain activities to earn privileges, grounding, and time out with modifications, still following a positive discipline approach. Things get a little more complicated in adolescence due to an increasing sense of independence and other issues that influence decisions at this time in a child’s development. Parents may now find that the old methods of discipline may not be as effective as in the past. This search for a balanced discipline style may lead some parents to use more of a “tough love” approach. There are many individuals who are big proponents of the tough love approach.
Tough love may mean different things to different individuals. To some it may mean that they have to be inflexible or harsh in dealing with someone’s behavior so that the person changes or does better in the future. Others may think of tough love as being strict with someone so that they learn to correct their behavior. To some, tough love may even mean withdrawing their affection and replacing it with a disciplinarian approach where positive interactions are seen as unnecessary. To others tough love does include a more balanced view of providing affection while having a more strict discipline approach.
Some individuals might naturally lean towards a more tough love approach than others. This may have to do with a parent’s own culture, personality, family size, religion, education levels and socioeconomic status.
In the 1960s psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted a study that identified parenting styles. The study included parenting components such as; disciplinary strategies, warmth and nurturance, communication styles, and expectations of maturity and control. Baumrind identified four different parenting styles and went on to study which parenting style led children to be better adjusted in their lives.
The four parenting styles were: Authoritarian Parenting: Parents are not to be questioned and children follow strict rules, and when rules are disobeyed, children are punished. The characteristics of an authoritarian parent include high demands, a low level of responsiveness to their children, and placement of high value on the preservation of order. Authoritative Parenting: Authoritative parents establish rules and guidelines and their children are expected to follow. Children’s conduct is evaluated based on individual situation and not using generalizations. Parents tend to be more nurturing and forgiving when a child fails to meet their expectations. They encourage dialogue and are assertive and limit how restrictive they are. When children disobey rules or fail to meet expectations, authoritative parents are more likely to employ supportive, nurturing and forgiving responses rather than punitive punishments. They share the reasoning behind their parenting policies.Permissive Parenting: Parents are more indulgent with their children. They tend to avoid confronting their children when they are disobedient. They tend to accept their child’s impulses, desires and actions while rarely disciplining or making demands of their children. They are typically more responsive and manipulative than they are demanding. Uninvolved Parenting: Uninvolved or neglectful parents can exhibit one or both styles. Parents may reject or neglect the needs of their child, or simply have little communication and low responsiveness to their child. In all cases, the uninvolved parent issues few demands, does not fulfill a child’s basic needs and are altogether detached from their child’s life.
Based on the study by Baumrind, authoritative parenting styles are generally linked to more positive long-term characteristics, such as happiness, success and high self-esteem. This is often attributed to the idea that when a parent’s control appears fair and reasonable, not arbitrary and punitive, children are more likely to internalize the reasoning and comply with the rules. Nurturing, authoritative parents can be a model for their children’s behavior, exhibiting self-control, empathy and emotional regulation by striking the right balance between discipline and warmth.
It follows that adhering to a more authoritative style leads to more balanced and fair discipline,where being tough is replaced by being balanced in interactions with our children. In turn, discipline is individualized based on a child and their family’s needs and not based on a one-size-fits-all.
A more balanced and fair discipline means encouraging, teaching and guiding children towards understanding which behaviors are acceptable or not. Some steps in providing positive discipline in adolescence are:
- Stay calm
- Listen before jumping in and reacting. How you react to your teen may influence if they come to you the next time.
- Allow time for your teen and yourself to both state your feelings
- Discuss what can be done differently the next time
- Negotiating when you can, to make your teen a part of the process
- Make consequences that fit the rules that were broken. For example, if a teen breaks curfew, he will have to come home earlier the next time. It is important to give your teen a chance to try again after a mistake.
- Establish Rules Together
- Take an interest in your teen's activities and spend time together doing something they enjoy. Daily activities such as mealtimes, shopping, walks, and watching tv are opportunities to connect with your teen.
- Create opportunities for your teen to demonstrate responsibility and for you to acknowledge their effort.
- Listen and respect your teen.
- Negotiate expectations and rules together to make your teen feel part of the process. Teens need independence and want to feel trusted but they still need you to teach and guide them.
- If helpful, put the rules in writing; make a contract that lays out rules, expectations and consequences.
All parenting styles affect your children. You help determine how. As studies show, affection, empathy, caring, and support are all needed so that interactions with children lead to positive results. This includes discipline.
If you have questions concerning parenting or other family matters, please call Maria Rodriguez-Fischer at New Pathways Counseling and Coaching. 919-401-8261