There was an interesting article in the NY Times today about "conditional parenting," which the author describes as a style of child rearing in which parents "turn up the affection when they’re good, withhold affection when they’re not." The author points to evidence that this parenting style may create more compliance in children, but that it also creates more psychological issues when children become adults. The author criticizes Supernanny Jo Frost and Dr. Phil as people who advocate for conditional parenting. This article is currently the most popular on the NY Times site.
The author doesn't say much about his style of "unconditional parenting," only that "In practice, according to an impressive collection of data by Dr. Deci and others, unconditional acceptance by parents as well as teachers should be accompanied by “autonomy support”: explaining reasons for requests, maximizing opportunities for the child to participate in making decisions, being encouraging without manipulating, and actively imagining how things look from the child’s point of view."
I don't know about this. If anyone has ever tried to "reason" with a three year old as to why he shouldn't hit his baby sister, it doesn't work. Kids are kids. They think differently from adults. They haven't yet developed higher logical skills, and at their young age, they shouldn't need these skills.
I like Supernanny. She uses the time out, then she follows it with an explanation. I agree that there is probably psychological damage that comes from punishments, but I wonder if the damage is worse than running a home with no discipline. I know lots of parents who never discipline their kids. I also know parents who threaten their kids but never follow up. While I strongly disagree with spanking, and while I see the problems with conditional parenting, I think the alternative to conditional parenting is much worse. I think it should be possible to use a time out without expressing a withdrawal of love.
What are your views on discipline?