What’s Your Discipline Style?

“My child never listens to me!

“She won’t pick up her toys!”

“He won’t clean his room!”

Expressions of frustration like these are all too familiar for many parents. Yet when these same parents try to address the problem with behavior management, they tend to focus on how children control (or do not control) themselves. But think about the typical business setting. It’s a place where effective management is implemented by the individuals in charge–not by the people who are being managed. Likewise, effective behavior management is not so much about what children do. Instead, it has more to do with adult behavior, and research shows that adults vary in their discipline and care giving styles. Let’s take a closer look at the three, primary styles of discipline.

1.     Power Assertive

This discipline style involves adult behavior like spanking, withdrawal of privileges and threats of punishment or physical harm. Children respond to an adult’s request out of fear–rather than respect. Consequently, children’s motivations for appropriate behavior are external, and they conform to expectations to avoid punishment. But when children find themselves in situations where they will probably not be “caught,” they are likely to engage in inappropriate behavior.

2.     Love Withdrawal

This approach to discipline involves adult behavior like refusals to speak or listen to children, threats to leave children, or expressions of dislike and disappointment. Adults who practice this discipline style often give children the proverbial “cold shoulder” when inappropriate behavior occurs. As a consequence, children conform to expectations because they fear abandonment or the loss of adult love and affection. Like power-assertive discipline, love withdrawal produces external motivation for appropriate behavior.

3.     Induction

This style incorporates the true nature of discipline: teaching. Adults who practice induction provide children with explanations for appropriate behavior as well as reasonable consequences for inappropriate behavior. Because children understand why certain actions are expected and others are prohibited, they internalize reasons for these behaviors. As a result, their motivation to behave properly comes from within, and they are more likely to engage in expected behaviors when they are in situations where they are not being watched. Another benefit of induction is that children will be more likely to understand the effects of their behavior on others and then exhibit empathy.

The Power of Communication

Research on discipline and care giving styles indicates that cooperative communication is critical in interactions between adults and children. Effective caregivers clearly convey high expectations to children and provide reasons for expected behaviors, while remaining receptive to the perspectives, suggestions and needs of children. And, effective caregivers are nurturing and responsive to children–even when mistakes occur–because they view discipline as a teaching and learning process.

Aggressive Behavior

The best role models for very aggressive children are their parents. Despite outside influences from the media and their peers, what kids see at home is the biggest determinant of how they behave.  Here are a few more things to consider:

  • Children who live with both parents have significantly lower aggression scores.
  • The better students get along with their parents, the less likely they are to fight.
  • The more parents monitor their student’s activities and friends, the less aggressive their child’s behavior.
  • A strong correlation exists between a student’s aggression and how he perceives his parents feel about fighting.
  • Even though students who live with both parents have the lowest aggression scores, the following factors are more predictive of aggression than family structure: low parental monitoring, poor relationship with parents, and perceived parental support for fighting.