There are three main discipline styles being used by teachers and parents in our culture today. In the first style, which is called authoritarian, the philosophy of discipline is that children should do what they are told, immediately and without question.
The discipline ideas employed by parents and teachers using this style are often shame, humiliation, and sometimes physical pain. The belief is that adults should have control over children. In this style children have little or no voice.
Spanking as discipline is often used. This method of raising children does result in helping children understand rules, guidelines, and limits, and often gets the immediate result that parents want (compliance, obedience). However, in the long term, it often results in children feeling anger and resentment ultimately leading to rebellion or revenge. This style may also result in children becoming passive, and feeling they must ‘please others’ at all costs.
The second of the discipline styles is called permissive. Often, parents who were raised with the authoritarian style of discipline turn to this method because of their negative memories of their own childhood experiences. They do not want their children to feel how they felt, and so go to the opposite extreme.
The permissive parenting style is characterized by lots of love and kindness, with parents having a hard time setting up and sticking with guidelines or structure. The adults who use this style do not want their children to be mad, or sad, and they tend to give in when children push limits. This results in children who, while sometimes being kind and empathic, have little respect for the needs of others, difficulty in accepting rules and guidelines, and who often feel entitled to get what they want whenever they want it.
Sometimes one parent has a permissive parenting style and the other parent has a more authoritarian parenting style. This can be confusing for children, and they also become very adept at playing parents off against each other.
Positive Discipline, is a combination of the best of both of these discipline styles. It is based on respect and dignity for ALL. The research literature calls this style of discipline authoritative.
In Positive Discipline we prefer to call it democratic, as this is what true democracy is all about. Positive Discipline recognizes the importance of firmness (rules, guidelines, accountability for actions) in our relationships with children, as well as the kindness of the permissive style of discipline, whereby children have a voice and are treated respectfully and lovingly.
Positive Discipline techniques are kind AND firm at the same time. Ideally, both parents should embody the democratice style of discipline. The emphasis is on HOW one disciplines rather than on specific strategies. This is discipline with dignity. In any situation, children have a right to their feelings, and parents recognize they cannot make children do what is being asked or required.
However, parents CAN follow through with limits in a kind but firm way. The long term result is that children learn the important life skills of respect (for self, others and needs of situations), and accountability for their actions, while still feeling loved and respected.