Old School Parenting Is Not Necessarily”Bad” or “Wrong.”
But It’s Often Ineffective
The Old School model of parenting is not, in and of itself, bad or wrong in terms of how to be a parent. Ninety-nine percent of us were probably raised within that model, and we turned out just fine, thank you!
By the “Old School parenting model” I mean the model that has been around for eons, probably as long as human parenting itself. It consists of a set of time-honored, tried and true principles that include the following: 1) rules; 2) obedience; and 3) punishments.
Old School = Parental Decree –> Rules –> Obedience –> Punishments
In the Old School authoritarian model parents make the rules. There’s nothing inherently bad or wrong about that. When rules are bad or wrong, it’s because parental expectations of the developmental needs of their children are unreasonable or misguided, and when the rules they set up are in some way unrealistic or inappropriate. In my experience, most parents’ behavioral expectations, as expressed in rules, are quite reasonable and appropriate.
Expecting children to obey rules is not bad or wrong, either. We all live by rules that are established by others in society–the groups, teams, and organizations we belong to–and in families, too. Again, parental expectations regarding their children’s obedience can be unrealistic or too demanding, in which case very strict obedience can be a hindrance to kids’ need to learn by experience and test limits. Like rules, parental expectations for obedience can be unrealistic, but in my experience this is usually not the case.
Parental punishment of children for disobeying rules is not, in itself, bad or wrong either. Negative consequences usually follow upon disobedience, or the breaking of rules, in any society or group. If the punishment does not “fit the crime,” however, it might well be inappropriate, over-determined, and perhaps even abusive. In these instances, punishments could be considered to be wrong or bad.
The Problem with Old School Parenting
The problem with the Old School model is far more likely to be this: it is too often ineffective. In today’s technologically advanced world, children are so well connected to others outside the four walls of the home that parental influence has been, in all too many cases, greatly diminished. Parents who know only Old School parenting methods (and that’s at least 99% of parents) are hamstrung by savvy, well-connected, and independent-minded children, let alone strong-willed and defiant children. In such cases parents often find that the methods their parents used just don’t work well with their kids.
New School = Parent-Child Dialogue –> Agreements –> Cooperation –> Accountability
Replacing the Old School approach to parenting with the New School approach gives parents an infinitely greater chance to be effective, even with the most recalcitrant children. Why? Because the New School “formula” directly involves children (of all ages) in 1) the establishment of “rules” (agreements) governing behavior and consequences, 2) a much stronger incentive to uphold their own agreements (cooperation), and 3) a much more effective means of learning from their mistakes (accountability). This is what my parenting classes, handouts, website, and articles all aim to teach today’s struggling parents. Be open to these ideas. They are radically different. Experiment with them. I’m convinced that you’ll see noticeable, positive changes in your children right off the bat.
3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model. Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.