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Determining Your Parenting Style

Take a few moments to think about your relationship with your child, and your life way back in the dark ages when you were a child. Then answer the following questions. Be honest, now. You don't have to show this to anybody, nobody will ever know (unless you decide to blab). This is between you and you:

  • What parenting styles did you experience as a child?
  • How did your parents teach you to be well behaved?
  • How did your parents discipline you?
  • Did they always teach and correct you with anger?
  • How did they encourage your independence?

List three things your parents did that you wouldn't mind repeating:

List three things your parents did that you will never, ever, not-even-when-the-cows-come-home do to your children:

Now think about your own parenting.

  • How often do you criticize your child?
  • How often do you provide specific, positive feedback?
  • In what ways do you show your pride and enthusiasm?
  • In what ways are you instilling your values, and your ethics?
  • Do you “rescue” your kids from difficult situations, let them work things our on their own, or help them with their problem-solving?
  • Do you find yourself charging up your anger before you talk to your kids when they've done something wrong? Note a time when a talk with your child felt more like a confrontation.

Unless they consciously make other choices, people tend to slide into the same parenting styles as their parents. (They've internalized their parents' discipline.) By looking at your answers to these sets of questions, you can begin to think about the parenting style that helped shape you, and how you parent now. You can begin to make decisions about adjusting your style. Self-knowledge is the secret, isn't it?

“That Approach Is Not My Style”

There's a difference between parenting approach and parenting style. Parents have all sorts of approaches to parenting, and there's room for positive discipline within all of them. Every family is different, and every family has its own values and customs. In all these examples, the parents are basically strong and reasonable, they just have different ways of applying their style:

  • In Joanie's family, everybody yells all the time, and everybody is always in a hurry.
  • Linda rarely raises her voice, and her kids get up five minutes later than they should every day.
  • Doug's kids have to clean their rooms once a day, before they go to bed.
  • Belinda and Tom's daughter is expected to straighten her room once every six weeks or so, before the cleaning lady comes in to do the heavy cleaning.
  • Sarah and Lou weep with their son when he comes to them about his disappointments.
  • Tony, who is Dave and Lee's kid, has been informed where the Band-Aids are kept. If it's a serious problem, he knows he can call one of his dads. Otherwise, he bandages up, and goes back to play.

When Parents Have Different Approaches

No two parents have exactly the same parenting approach, and even your styles don't need to be an exact match. Some people tend to be laid back and casual, some more strict. Some believe in organizing the household with operating procedures, guidelines, rules, and regulations. Ideally, of course, two parents living together should have a meeting of minds, or at least a balance of parenting styles and approaches. Have a little conference or two to discuss your household's approach. Whatever approach you decide on, make sure you are respecting your children, honoring their autonomy, and nurturing their needs.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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