Why New School Parenting Methods Work Better
New School parenting methods, based on a caring approach to discipline, work better than Old School methods because they get better results. Why is that?
Better Results with Difficult Kids
They truly do get better results–especially with difficult kids, who challenge parental authority, defy parental orders and rules, seem out-of-control, and are very often disrespectful. The reason the New School approach gets better results with these children (of ALL ages) is that they do away with power struggles, parent bossiness, power and control tactics, and the very real liability of parental disrespect toward their children.
The result is that children feel better respected, feel a significant degree of control over their own lives, experience their parents as guides and consultants as opposed to bosses, and correctly perceive that they are being asked by their parents to cooperate rather than obey or give in.
Instead of demanding obedience and conformity, which often inspires resentment and resistance, the New School methods are capable of teaching kids four highly desirable qualities: cooperation, accountability, integrity, and responsibility, and empathy (CAIRE). I said that the heart of a New School, caring approach to discipline is not love, but respect, and this is what makes it possible to actually teach kids the qualities of CAIRE, or how to care about self and others. Here are some reasons why are they capable of getting these kinds of results.
1. They make a big deal out of respect.
Mutual respect between parent and child starts with the parent treating the child respectfully. It does not start with the child treating the parent respectfully, which is what most parents want and demand. “Don’t talk to me that way! I’m your mother (father) and I demand respect! A parent’s demanding respect doesn’t cut it. It earns the child’s disrespect. The child might respond (or just think), “Well, why don’t you respect me then?” And they are right. Respect must be earned, even by parents, before it is given. You don’t automatically get it just because you’re a parent. And you earn it by how you treat the child. Then it becomes a two-way street: if the child is treated respectfully, they will treat the parent respectfully in return.
2. The parents accept the reality that they cannot control the child’s behavior.
So they don’t even try to. Instead, they request the child’s cooperation, realizing that voluntary cooperation is the best they can get. As a result they do not treat the child as a slave or pet by giving orders or commands. They make requests, which are much more respectful than commands are. I encourage parents to say explicitly to their child, “I know I can’t control your behavior, honey. And I’m not going to try. What I would like, though, is your cooperation.”
3. Parents allow children their freedom.
This is based on the fact that they realize they can’t control the child’s behavior. This does not mean parents let their kids run wild and just have their way, or that they don’t set limits regarding acceptable child behavior. But how those limits are set is where the difference between New and Old School approaches lies. Using New School methods, the parent uses dialogue with the child about what the right behavior ought to be, and why. They work at coming to agreements with their kids about these things, as well as what the consequences should be for not abiding by their agreements. Children sense and appreciate this difference from parents just imposing rules and consequences. The kids are held accountable regarding their own agreements, rather than the violation of parent-imposed rules.
4. The parents eliminate power struggles.
Parents using New School methods simply do not argue with their children. If the child starts whining and complaining, blowing their top, or trying to pick a fight with them, they simply let the child know that they’re not interested, and will be available to talk when the child calms down. They work hard at getting rid of the win-lose mind set, which often results in lose-lose power struggles. They work at not feeling “taken advantage of” when they listen to their children. They don’t feel like they are giving in if they acknowledge the child’s ideas as the child’s own opinions, to which they are entitled. They allow the child to have considerable say in reaching decisions that concern the child, although the parents always have the last word. They aim at using dialogue to build agreements together, rather than yelling, screaming, or arguing in an attempt to get the best of the child.
What I am describing in these letters as a New School approach to parenting requires give-and-take on both the parent’s and the child’s part. Where does the child learn that? From the parent doing it, of course. It can be quite challenging for a parent raised in the Old School to take the lead in this business of setting limits and consequences through negotiation and agreements. It often requires that the parent learn some new communication skills, or adopt a new attitude or two about the nature of the parent-child relationship–such as I’m not the sheriff here, who imposes and enforces laws. I’m a guide and consultant, who works toward reaching agreements with (young) people who have power, the power of their own will.
When parents do their best to 1) treat children respectfully, 2) seek cooperation rather than obedience, 3) acknowledge and allow the child’s freedom, and 4) eliminate power struggles, things start to change. Sometimes they change dramatically, and even quickly. Other times it takes quite some time, since children often do not know how to respond to the parents’ new approach with them. The children naturally rely on the only ways they know how to behave, and will look like they are testing the new “limits,” so things might get worse before they get better.
This means the parent needs to be consistent and persevere in practicing the techniques over and over, until the children learn to adapt and go along with the new program, which they like much better than the Old School program. The parents, too, need time to practice the New School methods over and over, till they become habits, or skills. I always say that practicing techniques = developing skills. However, if the parents’ goal is teaching CAIRE, rather than forcing compliance, the rewards of parent-child harmony will be far more surely attainable using New School parenting methods.
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.