1. A praiseworthy parenting style is one where the adult chooses to regulates their own emotions by catching and acknowledge their own triggers, refusing to act impulsively by imposing ad hoc rules and punishment, and purposely avoids shaming and blaming to get their desires for compliance met. This is what allows us to relate positively to our kids, even though they might be behaving poorly at times. We have the responsibility to God to model Christ’s love and patient compassion toward others. Our children should be categorically included in this. So we don’t give into the temptation to throw our own tantrums through the use of punitive consequences.
2. Praiseworthy parenting includes our making it a priority to stay warmly connected to our children. This is because connection is the best way to motivate motivates children to follow our rules and guidance. This is how God parents us in Christ. “It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.” Nobody can really make anyone do something that is intrinsically motivated. Even force is external and does not motivate compliance by choice or will. We want our children to want to do what we ask. This is why many parents have trouble in an endless series of power struggles with their kids. When parents connect deeply with their children, this intrinsically motivates a child to protect that relationship. Children who feel connected are there for more cooperative with parents, which leads to trust and attachment. If I children trust us and are attached to us then they will model our behavior. If we are kind and patient towards others, they will absolutely take notice and try to imitate us. This is God’s design for our home.
3. Praiseworthy parenting values guidance and teaching over control and punishment. If you think of a parent like a coach, you can instantly see how a coach’s job is to support, train and discipline those under their tutelage. Coaches do this through creating opportunities for growth, and they encourage steps in the right direction. They set limits, and enforce them through patience and the logical repercussions of their students choices. As I have said many times, there are marked differences between consequences and punishment. Many parents believe strict parenting produces better behavior. It’s simply not the case in the long run. Immediate compliance is not a good indicator of long term character development. Research on discipline consistently shows that strictly authoritarian practice actually produces kids with lower self-esteem who behave worse than other kids and get punished more.1 Further, a more serious issue with punitive styles is that if children don’t actually choose to comply, they are not internalizing that behavior as their own. Rather, they feel compelled externally so as to avoid punishment. Paul talks about this in 2 Cor 9:7 when he says to “give to the Lord freely, without compulsion” Likewise, each child must choose to obey their parents freely, without compulsion. Dr. Laura Markham’s daughter was interviewed when she was 16, about how she learn to behave without ever having been punished. She states:
“Either way, if you punish or not, a child still learns not to hit [others]. But if you are punishing to teach her, she learns not to hit so that SHE herself does not suffer. If you are using empathy to teach her, she learns not to hit because it hurts another person. So she becomes a better person. She cares more about other people.”
Out of the mouth of babes!
In summary, what makes the distinction between praiseworthy parenting and other styles is the commitment to self-regulation, connection with their children, and coaching instead of controlling.
1Brody, G. H. (1998). “Sibling Relationship Quality: Its Causes and Consequences.” Annual Review Psychology, vol. 49: 1–24.