Three Parenting Approaches To Raising Children

Three Parenting Approaches To Raising Children

 There is not a parent out there that would not  answer “Yes” to the question “Do you want your child to grow up responsible?” Then why are there so many irresponsible people in the world?  Look.  Listen.  Read the headlines.  Something isn’t’t right. Experts have frequently given parents confusing and conflicting advice about how to raise children.

Take something as simple as getting and eight year old to clean their room. Mom says, “Samantha, your room sure is a mess.  I suppose when you get tired of living this way, you’ll clean it up. “Dad says, “Samantha, clean up this room now!  Get busy.”

Permissive Parenting

Mom is using permissive parenting where children are allowed to unfold without direction. This approach assumes that, if left to figure things out, children will find their way. Advocates of this method let children decide how to behave and learn from the consequences of their behavior.

This rarely succeeded for the simple reason that few children are naturally self-directing. Children need routines, structure, predictability and boundaries, and they do not come by these naturally.

Authoritarian Parenting

The oldest and most widely used approach. Parents assume the majority of responsibility to control their children from birth to adulthood until their children become independent. This method has parents using their power and authority to take charge and punish their children in order to teach them what to do. The parents decide the consequences and children are expected to show respect by obeying their parents. Authoritarian parenting works best when the goal is for children to learn to be able to follow order and to conform to pre-existing standards. Creativity is not encouraged.  Children are taught to be obedient and to never talk back. These children become outer-directed, meaning that they look to people outside themselves to decide what to think and how to act.

Often, permissive parents get fed up when their child has not acted responsibly, and they go ballistic in an authoritarian outburst. After they have laid down the law, accompanied by tears and bad feelings, the child’s bedroom finally gets cleans. This lack of consistency is especially difficult because children don’t know what to expect, nor are they empowered and shown how to take charge of their bedroom.

Most permissive parents vacillate between permissive and authoritarian approaches.  They don’t provide structure, because they are uncomfortable being bosses. The explosion confirms how uncomfortable they feel being authoritarian so they go back to being permissive until the next big upset.

Breakthrough (or Collaborative) Parenting


Now we get to another way of raising our children that is neither permissive or authoritarian.

Breakthrough Parenting differs from the other in that the responsibility for solving problems is shared between parent and child. The child is not given permission to decide not to be responsible nor is the child told exactly what to do.

“Samantha, your room is really a mess.  I would like to know what your plan is for cleaning it.” Samantha is expected to take responsibility for cleaning her room. It is up to her to decide when and how to do the job.  If her plan works, great! If she does not show much success, then a process of problem-solving occurs between parent and child. “Samantha, it looks like you started to clean your room, but didn’t’t finish.  It doesn’t’t seem like your plan worked very well.” We still expect Samantha to get her room clean. Whose room is it?  Whose problem is it?   HERS

What is the parent’s job?  To help Samantha attain mastery over keeping her room clean by allowing her to assume an increasing amount of reasonability for it. The parent and child engage in problem-solving until both of them agree on how she is going to take care of her room. Acknowledge successes and point out how the various tasks have been accomplished. This approach is continued until it is no longer necessary for him to mention that the room needs to be cleaned. It may take until adolescence or longer before mastery of this task has been achieved.

Submitted by

Patricia Lessard

Certified Breakthrough Parenting Master Instructor

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