WAFF Investigates: Tough parenting - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

WAFF Investigates: Tough parenting

(Source: WAFF File) (Source: WAFF File)
Parenting is rarely easy. When do you come down hard, and when do you ease up?

For some parents, there's no question about it. You take a hard line all the time. That's the only way to keep kids on the straight and narrow.

Amy Chua grew up with Chinese parents who set very strict rules. That is why she adopted those rules in disciplining her two daughters.
You may have seen her in one of her appearances on The Today Show. 

In her book titled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, she mentions how her daughters were never allowed to attend a sleepover, have a play date, watch TV or play computer games. They also had to play either the piano or violin and practice two to three hours a day, every day, including weekends and vacations.

Most people would agree that's extreme parenting. It's ruling without giving kids a chance to speak. Some couples swear by it, even when other parents are a little shocked by it.

Joe Clegg, who raised four children with his wife, recalls a friend laying down the law when the dad saw his pre-schooler misbehave at his own birthday party.

"And he basically said 'There is no party,''' said Clegg. "'There's no cake.' And this is after people arrived, you know, and you're there to celebrate. And he just said his expectation were you are to behave. And now, this kid was young. And we were just sitting there, going 'Wow!'"

But does that firm "my way or the highway" approach work? Amy Chua and her daughters say it does, but recent research shows much of the time, it backfires, and badly.

One study out of the University of New Hampshire found that children raised that way are more likely to be disrespectful and delinquent -- more prone to stealing, drinking, doing drugs, hurting others, possibly going to jail.

Now, not every child with strict parents is going to go to jail, but push back, may be a lot of it. According to the study, kids don't see those parents as legitimate authority figures, and the kids rebel.

Jessica Cleveland, a licensed counselor in Huntsville, sees this style of parents and their children in her office the most. Often, the kids want to talk with her away from their parents. 

"I'll ask the child to tell me what the rules are," said Cleveland. "And they may give me a few, but then I'll ask the parent and they'll say 'No. He knows he's supposed to do this and this and this,' and I'll say 'Well no, he doesn't.' And that's where there's a communication breakdown."

It's that communication that's the key to a far more successful way of parenting, according to researcher Rick Trinkner. It's what he refers to as "authoritative" - showing discipline but also some warmth.

How do you do that?

"Just listening and less talking," said Cleveland. "Less lecturing. Listen to your child. Try to understand their perception."

That doesn't mean you have to give in, but take their thoughts into consideration.

That's the way Clegg and his wife raised four children. Their cardinal rule? Do your best and be accountable. All four are in college, and though they don't have to, they still report in with their grades. The oldest and youngest have never gotten a B.
"But the middle two - 'Uh, hey, I got a B. OK, is that your best? Eh, I could have done a little bit better'.  But, you know, I managed it, so you accept it and then you move on."

No two children are alike. Sometimes, the mother and father's styles aren't quite alike. So, what's worked for the Cleggs?

"Keeping the expectations managed," said Clegg. "And making sure that the kids achieve what they're capable of achieving when they're capable of achieving it. And then, you just put them on your way."

Copyright 2015 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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    Thursday, February 5 2015 10:52 PM EST2015-02-06 03:52:21 GMT
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