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Quiz: What is your parenting discipline style?
(permissive, authoritative, authoritarian)

Discipline is often difficult for parents. We fear losing our bond with our children if we are too tough, but we also risk losing their respect and control of the situation, if we are too lenient. In the end, discipline must be balanced with love. And it is these two key elements-love and discipline-that ensure healthy development. Children need appropriate limits to be set by the adults who love and care for them. And it is through consistent and matter-of-fact consequences that children learn self- respect and self-control.

But some of us have an easier time than others, in establishing limits and delivering consequences. Parenting is no exception. Take the quiz below to discover where you fall on the spectrum and what you can do to balance love with effective discipline when setting limits becomes necessary.

1. Your 4 year old son wants an ice cream before dinner and you say no. He has a tantrum. You speak calmly but nothing seems to work, do you:

a) give in and let him have the ice cream

b) allow him to cry and matter-of-factly state that he can have the ice cream after he has his dinner, but not before

c) Tell him he cannot have ice cream at all because of his tantrum

2. You are taking your 7 year old daughter out for dinner at a restaurant while your spouse attends an important meeting. After dinner you stop at the drugstore to get some supplies. Your daughter sees a popular game that is quite expensive and wants you to buy it for her. When you say “no” she continues to whine and demand the game. You:

a) buy it for her to stop her from whining

b) explain that it is too expensive, but perhaps you will consider it for Christmas or her birthday. You reflect her disappointment, but you do not give in because she whines. (You comfort yourself and keep patience, by telling yourself that her whining will end in about 15 minutes!)

c) tell her “no” and that if she does not stop whining immediately you will not allow her to watch her favorite television show that she was planning on watching when you returned home for the evening

3. Your two children (ages 2 and 4) are playing together. The older child takes a toy away from the younger one. The younger starts to cry. You:

a) comfort the younger child and distract him with a different toy

b) explain to the older one that he must give the toy back to his younger sibling and engage him in some other activity or interest.

c) immediately take the toy away from the older boy, forcibly, and tell him he must sit in time out for ten minutes because he took the toy away from his younger brother

4. You are walking home from the store with your 5 year old son, after a long day. It is hot and both of you are tired. You are three blocks from home. He demands to be carried, but you have a back problem and cannot lift him. He falls apart, throwing himself on the ground and screaming when you ask him to walk. You:

a) carry him anyway, even though you will re-injure your back

b) stop and allow him to cry, and take a rest, but require him to get up and walk on his own. Suggest an appropriate treat to look forward to after putting in hard work of walking all the way home. (a popsicle, or special game). Assist him in walking by telling him a story as you walk, counting your footsteps home and guessing how many it will take until you arrive. Congratulate and reward him, once he is home!

c) threaten him with a time out when he gets home if you have to carry him

5. You are making dinner, while your 2 1/2 year old daughter plays nearby you. She suddenly throws a heavy toy train at the cat. When you tell her not to do it again, she repeats her behavior. You:

a) put the cat out of the house, so she cannot hurt it

b) explain that she cannot throw heavy objects because it is dangerous and can hurt someone or something. When she repeats this behavior you explain that she cannot have the toy anymore because she is throwing it. If she continues to do so, the consequence will be that you will take it away and stop playing the game with her until she can agree to not throw anything. She can have the toy back when she agrees to not throw it.

c) immediately take the toy away, stop playing and punish her with a time out in her room.

Scoring: a=1; b=2; c=3

What's your quiz point total?

5-7 Permissive

Watch out! You have trouble setting limits and avoid conflict by giving in rather than gaining control. Your grandchildren may believe you love them, but they will not respect your limits. This could cause problems in being able to care for them and cause you to back away from more one-to-one contact with your children. Consider strategies for coping with discipline that address setting limits. Seek to balance discipline with love, and you will enjoy a closer and healthier parent-child relationship.

8-11 Authoritative
Congratulations! You tend to exercise a balance between love and discipline. Your children will not only respect you, but they will trust you in a difficult or frightening situation. They will be more likely to come to you in time of need, for help and guidance. And you will be more capable of lending a helping hand to mom and dad when they need it! You are authoritative. Your children listen to you, but they in no way fear you.

12-15 Authoritarian
Uh-oh. You tend to be a bit heavy handed in the discipline department. Try a little more patience and explaining, before punishing. Use positive reward before resorting to negative punishment. Seek a greater amount of tolerance and a warning system, before delivering consequences. Develop strategies that maintain your firmness, but soften your approach. You are likely to gain your children’s obedience out of fear, rather than love! But this will not lead to a desire for greater connection.

Discipline tips and strategies

The formula for effective discipline is communicating clear expectations for what is expected, communicating what the consequences will be if the negative behavior continues and following through on consequences when the negative behavior persists. Along the way, consider positive reinforcement before punishment, explanation of the rules, a warning system ( 2nd or 3rd request before delivering consequences), and strategies such as counting to three to give your child a chance to cooperate. Use natural consequences whenever possible, such as taking a toy away that is being thrown or no ice cream until after dinner has been eaten.

And remember that reflecting feelings works to calm an agitated child and a neutral, matter of fact tone, is far more effective than screaming! Beware of labeling, too. For example; label a behavior negative, such as “hitting is bad”, but refrain from putting a negative label (“trouble-maker”) onto a child. It is our job as parents to bring out the best in our grandchildren. To do so, we must believe in them! Offer guidance instead of ridicule.

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