Posts Tagged bill mitcham

Bill Mitcham: Three models of parenting – dictator, wet clay, and authoritative teacher

June 10, 2009

There are three models the generations of the past have used to tackle the task of parenting.

The fist model, perhaps the traditional model, could be labeled “the dictator style“. This model promotes using parental power to “mould” children into shape, like a drill sergeant at a military training site. By the use of raw power or rewards, these “dictator parents” punish, threaten and many times use physical force on children. This may be slaps, punches or the use of belts and switches. Since parents are bigger than children, it is easy to overpower a child. Rewards are also used by dictator types. Since parents have access to money and goods, they attempt to bribe children into compliant behavior to get a reward for “good behavior.” This model can appear to work since the threat of being harmed, embarrassed or being yelled at forces children into fear and following orders.

Children raised by dictator parents tend to grow up as fearful, overly submissive, low-esteemed adults. The other response is to retaliate against parents as they get older and bigger, sometime becoming unmanageable when children strike back, using their power against their parents. These children feel unloved and rejected.

A second model could be called “the wet clay parents“. These are parents with no backbone — like wet clay, they can be molded and shaped by their children. These parents usually have little self- esteem themselves and desperately want their children to like and love them. They do everything they can to win their children’s favor. Permissiveness is the mode of operation and if the parents make a rule or express expectations for a child, the child gets angry, pitches a tantrum and the parents cave in and let the child do whatever the child wants to do. These children can become tyrants and dictators. As the kids get older and stronger, their parents may live in fear in their own home, like captives.

Children of wet clay parents often grow up selfish, uncooperative and demanding in all their relationships. They, too, feel unloved because there is no love in the parents who are victims. Parents feel no love but feel tons of resentment. When these children grow up, they can become violent to their spouses and children.

The third model, we will call “authoritative teacher style“. This is the parent who assumes parental power and uses her/his authority to set boundaries and expectations and models values that promote cooperation and shared power with children. Like a good teacher, the children know the parent is in charge, but is there to teach them, not to threaten or please them. Good teachers develop influential relationships with their students and set high standards and strict expectations. Authoritative parents do the same. When there is a problem, the authoritative parent sits down with the child and explores choices, allowing the child to express her or his thoughts and feelings, knowing that the parents have the final word. This model aims at mutual respect. Both the power of the parent and the child is utilized in the problem solving process.

Children of the authoritative teacher model grow up feeling loved, respected, have high self regard, and learn to be cooperative and respectful with others. This is a recipe for adult success.

Dr Bill Mitcham is the Director of The Marriage Maintenance Center in Davidson, North Carolina, USA.

Parenting Tip: Teach your children how to solve problems

May 8, 2009

Don’t try to solve problems for your children, but teach them how to solve problems themselves.

Conflicts are inevitable in children’s lives and therefore children should learn as early as possible how to problem solve. Unless a child is in danger, parents need to let the child try to figure out options to handle their problems. Our task as parents is to listen and not try to solve their problems for them.

To deal with these behaviors, a parent has a number of choices. The action of choice for most parents is punishment. My mom used to wash out our mouth with soap when we used “dirty” words. A second choice would be to reward or bribe a child to address the behavior. This would be a parent who says, “If you will pick up your toys, you can have some ice cream.” A third choice of parents would be to ignore the behavior and pretend it didn’t happen or to pick up the toys for the child to avoid a fight.

Punishment, although needed at times, runs the risk of damaging the parent/child relationship. Rewards set up the expectation that bad behavior has benefits and will not change unacceptable behavior, in fact, it may increase it. Denial and/or picking up after a child encourages irresponsibility, since the child does not experience the consequence of his behavior.

“Parent Effectiveness” author and psychologist Dr. Thomas Gordon teaches parents to use “I Messages” to deal with unacceptable behaviors. An “I Message” has four parts. The first component is a non-blameful description of the unacceptable behavior. The second part is the feelings of the parent. Third is the tangible concrete effect the behavior has on the parent and lastly, is a request to the child.

Here is an example of an “I Message.” Parent A is disturbed when the children fail to close the outside doors in the middle of the hot summer. Parent A takes the children outside to the electrical meter box and says to the children, “When the doors are left open (a non-blameful description of the problem), it causes the hand on this meter to turn more quickly and every time this hand makes a circle, it costs us money (tangible concrete effect). When we have to pay a large electrical bill, I am afraid (feelings) I will not have enough money to pay our bills and still have money for all the fun things we like to do. I need for both of you to remember to close the doors each time you come out or go in” (request).

Try an “I Message” this week as an alternative to punishment, reward or denial. See what happens!

Thanks to Dr. Bill Mitcham, the Director of The Marriage Maintenance Center in Davidson, North Carolina, USA for today’s tip!

Do you have a tip you’d like to share? Please let us know below.


Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

Popular Subjects on this site

Legal compliance

If you are going to use or distribute material from our campaign in any way, eg remixed or mashed up, please ensure that your actions are compliant with the relevant legislation, as the Yes Vote Coalition cannot take responsibility for actions beyond our control or knowledge.

The bottom line is that we want to play by the rules. We appreciate your support, but please act ethically, thoughtfully, and within the law.

Please see our Legal Disclaimer for more information.