Now, as an ex-fundamentalist parent, I'm learning to dig up and reject false dichotomies like this one that were deeply ingrained in my thinking. I'm starting to develop a perspective of parenting that is less simplistic, more balanced, and more informed by child psychology, biology, linguistics, and statistics.
There is a name for the perspective that resonates most with me: it's called positive parenting or gentle parenting. I'd like to share a couple of my favorite online articles on the topic with you, and I hope to find more good reading on the topic from your recommendations.
Positive Parenting Is Not Permissive Parenting from the Positive Parents website:
Your 18 month old is a little explorer. She really likes to climb too! She can even climb up in the chair, then up on the kitchen table.
Authoritarian reaction: Sternly, "Do NOT climb up there again!" The next time the child climbs onto the table, she is forcefully removed and sat in a time out chair in the corner, crying.
Permissive reaction: "Honey, I told you not to climb. Please get down." No action is taken. "Honey, I asked you to get down. You might fall." At this point, the permissive parent may not take action and hope for the best for finally get up to remove the child from the table.
Positive reaction: The first time your child attempts to climb on the table, you intervene, saying "Climbing is fun! Let's find a safe place for you to climb. This table is not safe." Let her climb over some couch cushions, if she wants. Climbing itself is not a misbehavior. She may conquer Mount Everest one day! The goal is to keep her safe and teach her what is appropriate. The next time she heads for the table, immediately and gently take her from the table, repeating the above. If she gets upset, acknowledge her upset. "I see you're mad. You want to climb, but that isn't safe. Let's go play over here."
What's the Deal with Consequences? from the Positive Parenting website:
Throw the word "consequence" entirely out of your vocabulary and replace it with the term "problem-solving."
Do you see how this changes the whole concept in your mind? Now it's not about coming up with something to do to your child, but it's about working with your child to find a solution. Having your child involved in the problem-solving process will not only teach him valuable lessons and instill self-discipline, but it will leave his dignity intact, and he'll feel good about himself and his relationship with you.
I Quit Spanking from Melissa at Permission to Live:
My children trust me.
When we used spanking, my children would run away if they thought they were in trouble. They would lie automatically after doing something wrong. Not anymore. They will even come to me for help when something gets out of control. My 3 1/2 year old doesn’t cover her bottom when she sees me coming towards her. My kids know that I will not hurt them, they know they don’t have to be afraid of me.
Discipline vs. Punishment from Melissa at Permission to Live:
I needed to respect my children as people, not subjects.
I expect to be treated with respect. If someone came up behind me grabbed me and unceremoniously carted me off and began brushing me teeth you better believe I'd put up a fight! I started talking more to my children, telling them what we were going to do before hand instead of just barking orders that I expected to be obeyed. I started to understand my children better. When my 15 month old began waking up every single morning immediately threw a full-out-screaming-on-the-floor tantrum, I discovered it wasn't because she was going through a rebellious stage, it was because she had hit a growth spurt and woke up so hungry she didn't even know how to think straight. Taking her directly from her bed to her high chair with food waiting on the tray each morning solved that problem.
This may be pathetic, but it was a huge breakthrough for me. My children are people too, they have the same struggles I do. Its my job to teach them how to handle their temptations and feelings, how to love, and how to serve God and others. And that shouldn't include teaching them to obey blindly without thought. Or hitting or otherwise forcing people to do what you want. Or teaching them that emotions or feelings and desires are bad things.
Parenting Is Not a Contest from Libby Anne at Love Joy Feminism:
There’s something else I’ve realized too. Spanking seems like the easy way out. Instead of listening to my daughter and trying to understand her heart when she says “no” when I tell her to do something, I could just spank her. I could force her to do what I want and use the threat of pain to back it up. And if my childhood is any measure, it would work, at least on the outside. Spanking is quick and easy. But what kind of obedience is that? I don’t want Sally to obey me because she is afraid of what might happen if she doesn’t.
Discipline from the Parenting Freedom website:
When we examine the evidence, we believe those who rely on the rod verses in Proverbs to argue that parents are Biblically mandated to spank young children, especially those under the age of ten or twelve years, are mistaken....
The actual age of the "child" in the Proverbs rod verses is about the age when most authors and parents decide a child is too big for a spanking, at which time they have to find new ways to "discipline" the child.