When I know we will have to leave soon, I always let her know that we will be leaving in a couple of minutes. Of course, a two-year-old doesn't have a good grasp of time, but it does seem to keep her from having a strong reaction to the announcement that we must leave now.
Another strategy that I have seen work is clear and consistent consequences. She is still too young to know for sure, but it seems that she is aware which behaviors will be accepted and which are likely to land her in a "time out." Last week she even glanced at the time out corner in our house after throwing her bowl on the floor. I reacted to the mess by calmly reminding her that throwing food was against the rules, and then I placed her in the time-out corner for two minutes.
All of these effective parenting strategies come more from the authoritarian school than the permissive one. I am working to establish clear rules and communicate to my young daughter that she has no choice but to follow these rules. When I am able to remain calm, which isn't always easy, and be consistent, which is also difficult, my daughter reacts more calmly and seems to respond to my tone. Setting limits and providing structure suits us both well, and I agree with researchers who suggest that parents don't always have to provide explanations or reasons for their rules. Children should learn to respect their elders, their parents, and their teachers; telling them that its OK to demand an explanation from these authority figures will result in disrespectful behavior later.
Since my daughter is only 2 years old, I can't possibly imagine how my choice of an authoritarian parenting approach will manifest in grades, shyness, or behavioral issues during adolescence. Still, I'm certain that paying close attention to my parenting style and watching for evidence of outcomes can only mean a happier life both for me and for her.
Authoritarian parenting, comprised of firm structure and an approach to parenting that clearly gives the parents more power than the child, is one approach to the difficult task of raising a child. Permissive parenting, where children are expected to set many of their own rules and define their own expectations, is another. Strong arguments have been made on the merits of each approach. Most researchers seem to think that the evidence shows better outcomes for children raised in authoritarian homes. Those children tend to have fewer behavior problems and higher grades. However, there is not scientific consensus on this issue. Many insist that permissive parenting allows for otherwise shy children to flourish, and may in fact feed creative abilities. Perhaps, after all, following rules and getting good grades isn't the highest level of success a parent (or child) might seek.
Still, my own early parenting experiences seem to conform with research that suggests children raised with authoritarian expectations will be calmer and perhaps less disruptive. My daughter seems to be comforted by consistent rules. She does not (yet) demand explanations for these rules, and I suspect that having a strong authority figure who can care for her is all the comfort she needs. Fewer tantrums is, so far, the best measure I have for the effectiveness of my own parenting methods.
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