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by Ronald A. Rowe | August 5th, 2011 | Elementary, Helpful Hints

Discipline is a tricky thing to balance. Dr. Spock tried to remove it from parenting to the ruination of a generation of children of well-meaning but misinformed parents. Finding the right level of parental discipline is one of the greatest challenges that we face on the parenting journey.

All parents, good or bad, fall into one of four categories in terms of discipline – Neglectful, Permissive, Authoritarian, or Balanced. I’ll assume that no one who is taking the time to read an article on a parenting website falls into the Neglectful category so we can gloss right over that. Suffice it to say that Neglectful parents neither show their children love or teach them discipline.
Permissive parents are parents who are very loving but lack in providing any sort of boundaries or discipline to their children. These are holdovers from the Doctor Spock philosophy – be your child’s friend and everything will work out just fine. This strategy tends to produce adults who lack self-control and an effective moral compass.

Authoritarian parents are the opposite number of Permissive. Discipline is king and the parent-child relationship lacks the kind of love and support that children need to feel a sense of love and belonging. The Authoritarian tolerates no dissension, no questions. This type of parenting generally produces adults who are emotionally empty. They will seek approval from the significant relationships in their life – boss, boy/girl friends, peers – to an unhealthy degree.

The ideal parenting type is the Balanced parent – one who balances discipline and love. Balanced parenting requires us to set firm boundaries with our children without stifling them. If we show our children unconditional love without unconditionally approving their actions, we give them the emotional and functional foundation that they need to grow up to be well-adjusted adults.

Most readers are going to peg themselves as a Balanced parent. And that’s probably true. But consider where you fall within the Balanced continuum. Do you lean more toward the Authoritarian or the Permissive? Are you more authoritarian with one child (maybe the oldest) and more permissive with another (the baby)? Taking the time to give yourself an honest assessment is the first step toward improving on any areas of opportunity. Working to maintain that appropriate Love-Discipline balance is absolutely foundational to being the parent of an exceptional child.

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