Is Your Parenting Style Outdated?

Image: morgan childers

Did you know that giving a child a ‘Time Out’ is actually considered a bad thing?

Yes, just as quickly as our children grow up so is the way of parenting techniques. Just a few years ago everyone was talking about ‘the naughty stool’. It was a trend, a skill to be perfected and executed immediately. We watched from our living rooms weekly how British nannies would shame the American parents with their savvy discipline techniques. Now as I complete my application to start a daycare in NY State I find out that ‘Time Out’ is prohibited and deemed as a humiliation technique frowned upon by the state.

So that rouses the question, ‘Is your parenting style outdated?‘ It may be time for an upgrade. If you are in your 30s or older you remember spankings, or for some flat out beatings. If your parents were into the free love movement, you may have escaped corporal punishment. Some more conservative types were denied toys, dinner or some other childhood pleasure.

Childhood discipline is a cultural issue when you come right down to it. Coming from an African American background there was no talking, we were spanked and happy to survive. My husband coming from a Japanese background is also no stranger to the rod. We’ve decided as parents not to hit (it’s illegal) but we also recognize that we can’t create an environment where the children are running the show or turn our backs on our roots. I mean, we didn’t grow up to be horrible people. What to do? And where do you find yourself if you are in a bi-cultural marriage where the spankings only happened on one side?

This can be a really difficult issue for some families depending on the severity of the punishment culture. I actually had students (adult ESL teacher) that told me they had their mouths washed out with soap. To me, that is barbaric, but that is the cultural standard that was the norm for those particular students. Who am I to judge?

My question then is how is one supposed to discipline? I am interested in hearing what you do to discipline your children?


  1. says

    What a post! You make me remember so many things from my childhood and think about how many of those things I either avoid or repeat, unthinking, as I parent my three children. It is so hard to know what's right! I think discipline is a very individual thing–what works for one parent-child will not work for another (even in the same family!) I can talk things out with my son, but talking doesn't work with my middle daughter. We need a complex system of earning rewards or taking away privileges for one daughter; but that system doesn't work for the other daughter. To make things more complex, my husband's disciplinary style is completely different from mine!

    Despite all the complexities that come from our individual relationships, my husband and I strive to be consistent in one thing–being proactive rather than reactionary. Our goal is to have our kids learn self-discipline so that our job as parents isn't just one of giving negative consequences. Before we go somewhere, we try to list our expectations. If things start going nutso, we hope that a simple "Are you supposed to behave that way?" is enough. The number one disciplinary tool we use, though, is modeling: we behave the way we want our kids to behave. It doesn't always work, though. So far summer break has been really challenging for me…3 kids together all the time, 2 who are hormonal tweens and easily annoyed by their younger sister…I find myself reacting more than reminding. I hope to keep my cool this summer (in more ways than one ;)

    Thanks for this awesome post!

  2. says

    The threat of "losing" privileges gets our son back on track, 99.9% of the time. Getting both my husband and I to discipline consistently has been a challenge. He's more lax, whereas I've been dubbed "Mean Mommy," because I don't agree to everything. In our son's eight years, he's been spanked twice. Both times, I thought his actions merited corporal punishment. Looking back, I regret my choice.

    Whatever discipline style, we should discipline in love and kindness. I've learned to remove myself from the situation to clear my head. I ask myself in the moment, "What do I want him to remember?"Thank you for asking the question. 

  3. says

    Uh oh, I am guilty of still using time out….  I needed to read this post I see.  I also tend to present to our son that he has a choice and the choice he makes will result in a consequence.  He usually makes the correct decision after I remind him "he" is making the choice (to get in trouble or not, lose a toy, go in time out….etc).

  4. says

    My comment I was leaving escaped from me….

    Anyway – great post. Thank you so much for writing this. I write about natural parenting approaches on my personal blog so check that out for inspiration on how to get away from more “traditional” approaches to discipline. It does take a lot of work to undo what has been ingrained in our generation. But just think, by raising our children in a more gentle manner we are changing the future of parenting!

  5. says

    I took a class on Early Childhood Education – Positive Behavior Management. 
    The main lesson I learned is that children need logical and fair consequences for inappropriate behavior. Think of yourself. How do we feel when our boss, family or friend is punitive? I feel like – this type of relationship is not worth having. If we want the trust and respect of our children we should have a mutually respectful relationship with them. By observing day care providers and teachers I see that the vast majority of them have a positive relationship with the children that is mutually respectful.