What is the "right" way to parent?

Parenting can be a controversial topic. What is the "right" way to parent? Haven't we all been quick to judge another parent at the supermarket or restaurant whose child is not behaving appropriately according to our standards? I know I have, especially before having my own children. Having your own children gives a whole new appreciation for the job of being a parent.

So, what it the "right" way of parenting? Asking this question can result in many answers, even when asking educated professionals in the field. In many cases, we can identify and agree on poor parenting strategies or behaviors but it can be harder for individuals to agree on ideal or desired parenting tactics. This is partly due to a wide range of individuals' backgrounds and expectations for their children but also because each child is so very different. Even if we were able to capture the essence of perfect parenting, it would be different for each child we raise.

What makes each child so different? There are many factors working together to make each child individual and unique. One that I find very interesting is the influence of birth order. There has been much research completed that looks at family dynamics and makes conclusions about a children's personalities based on where they fall in order of oldest to youngest. While these conclusions are not on target 100% of the time, many times they do show solid trends. For anyone interested in this concept, I would recommend The Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman. I have read this book and I can identify many of the traits that he describes in myself, my siblings and my children.

One of the hot topics where childrearing is concerned it that of discipline. To spank or not to spank, that is the question. While I have my personal opinion on the matter, what I will stress here is consistency. No matter the form of discipline used, if it is inconsistent it will not produce the desired results. Think about this for a moment. If you are chronically late to work and your boss makes constant threats of disciplinary actions, but carries them out sporadically, will it really influence your behavior? It is not very likely. I have recently The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson in which he describes the challenges of parenting children with a strong will. While he has his own religious and disciplinary philosophy, he also stresses the importance of consistency. So whether you use a behavior chart, pair allowance and desired behaviors, use time-outs or spanking, it is important for your child to understand the expectations you have for them, the rules they are expected to abide by, and what the consequences will be should they choose to defy these. At this point, you have given them all the tools necessary to make their own decisions and you should be ready to consistently follow through with your word if needed. Your child will thank you in the long run.

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