Parents today have a variety of choices regarding their parenting style. Are you a strict, disciplinarian? Do you expect children to do as you say, not as you do? Or are you permissive, letting the child do as he or she pleases, afraid of their whining, demands, and pleas? Do you give in to them, to avoid unleashing their rage that will be directed at you? Perhaps you use rewards to excess, coercing children into acceptable behaviors by bribing them with external goodies.
These parenting styles reflect thousands of years of training in autocratic societies. We adopt a parenting style similar to our parents, or exactly the opposite in defiance of their ways. This has passed from generation to generation since culture began. Democracy is relatively new to the world and therefore the parenting style appropriate to raising children in preparation for living this way, fairly new as well. The parenting style most effective for preparing children to live in a democratic society is called Redirection. The following are some personal examples of how Redirecting works as an alternative to punishment, permissiveness and rewards.
My 5 & 6 year old were running around the house, yelling, screaming, fighting etc. I was going nuts as I was trying to get dinner ready. I yelled at them to knock it off (the beginning of punishment) and when that didn’t work, I was tempted to really let them have it (punishment). Instead I decided to Redirect. I took a moment, got down on their level and asked them what they could do to make themselves useful so I could finish making dinner. They decided to sweep the floor together. They immediately settled down and got to work. I was amazed when they also decided to mop, and then wiped the windowsills clean. The bedlam ended and left us all feeling valuable, capable and proud of our contributions.
My 10 year old had a problem when friends came over. Her room would become a disaster area which she could not ever seem to clean up. Instead of letting her get away with irresponsibility (permissiveness), then having a week-long battle, I decided to Redirect. We discussed this and came up with a mutually agreeable solution. Every 1/2 hour I would announce “Room check in 5 minutes!” and she and her friend would need to straighten everything except what they were playing with. The result was a clean room and a child who learned she needed to be responsible to get what she wanted.
My 5 year old son showed me an empty plastic cup after school. He said he had gotten some m&m’s for counting his numbers well (reward). I said, “Great job, Michael!” He said, “Yeah, but it isn’t even related!” He intuitively knew that the reward was not related to his accomplishment. I told this story to on of my parenting classes and a teacher offered, “If the teacher had counted out the m&m’s, then it would have been related!”
Redirecting is discipline that builds self-esteem and corrects misbehavior.