5 Aug

Dear Reader:

If you are a parent — or a grandparent, aunt, or uncle, for that matter — you may find the following information helpful. Let’s think  about parenting in two dimensions, which we call Support and Guidance (or Discipline).

First, the Support dimension. Think of this as a horizontal line going from Left to Right. Low Support (on the left) would mean that you as parent or adult in your child’s life are NOT there for him or her emotionally. High Support on the Right would mean that you are there to listen and to draw out your child’s feelings and help him or her talk about those feelings: happy, sad, lonely, afraid, anxious, angry, etc. You listen and you notice facial expressions and behavior, and you help your child express him/herself.

Second, the Guidance dimension. Think of this as a vertical line going from Low to High. Low Guidance means that you don’t talk about what the guidelines for your child’s behavior in any situation are. Your child doesn’t know what is expected of him/her in a given situation and certainly doesn’t know what the consequences of behaving badly might be. What is not acceptable in your household —  words and names that are not tolerated? What behaviors are totally out of bounds — pushing, shoving, hitting, lying, and so on? If your child not only knows these No’s but is also aware of what behaviors are encouraged (for example, saying Yes, Please, and Thank You), then you are moving up along the Guidance/Discipline dimension.

We can also think of the Support and Guidance dimensions as creating FOUR QUADRANTS representing four different parenting styles:

1. The upper left quadrant: This is Authoritarian parenting, which I laughingly also call “tyrannical”! This is the parent who does not relate emotionally to the child but does have high demands for exemplary behavior. This style of parenting is NOT the preferred style, although it was the most prevalent probably through the 1950s.

2. The lower left quadrant: This is the Neglectful style of parenting, in which there is both low Support and low Guidance. The child might as just as well not be there, for the parent is really oblivious to the child’s existence. It is unfortunate that many children do experience this absentee parenting, whether it be from alcoholism, drug abuse, workaholism, or any other cause in which the parents are simply not emotionally present.

3. The lower right quadrant: This is the Permissive style of parenting, which is the most popular style of parenting today. Notice that it involves high Support but low Guidance. This style does not produce a confident child, because s/he is wondering inside, “What is really OK to do? If I whine some more, will my father/mother give in?” Not having a parent who says No sometimes or who sets parameters is really SCARY for a child!

4. The upper right quadrant: This is the Authoritative (note spelling!) quadrant, the ONLY STYLE OF PARENTING which produces confident children who know their boundaries — and yours.  With this style of parenting, your child is confident that you understand him/her and also that you are setting guidelines and consequences that are clear and fair.  By the way, consequences of not behaving in a way that has been agreed upon need to match whatever it is that the child has done wrong.

Questions or comments: Send me an e-mail to jeaneva@comcast.net or phone me at 505-466-4990!

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