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Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs
(Comparison Chart)

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The Big Answer


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Dare to Discipline

a book by James Dobson

(our site's book review)

The entire violent, mean, Dare to Discipline method can be summed up aptly with this picture
The entire violent, mean, Dare to Discipline method can be summed up aptly with this picture

Dare to Discipline is another one of those autocratic methods bound to confuse parents since it has some good ideas mixed up with a lot of bad ones. Parents who follow this extremist's advice won't have to worry about disobedience for long. Beating the crap out of people tends to make them compliant, docile, fearful, angry, depressed, neurotic, passive aggressive and many more such attributes too numerous to mention. One needs to "break their wills" to get obedience. Why does this sound so much like the CIA's Extraordinary Rendition and Detention Program often conducted at "black sites"? He at times sounds like he only wants violence as a response to willful disobediance and unsafe/harmful behavior, but at other times he seems like he's saying to react violently to all "misbehavior." You must win the "war." Spank them “until they cry” he says. He advocates strict, authoritarian discipline, which is not surprising since James Dobson is a popular right-wing Christian minister. And we say: physician heal thyself!

Punitive discipline is a parenting mistake, and research has shown it doesn’t work. See Discipline That Works for just a sampling of such research.

A reviewer of his book on Amazon made this point: "Although Dr. Dobson uses as his starting point some widely-accepted truths about discipline -- for example, one must set firm and consistent boundaries; one must aim discipline at behavior, not at the child; one must employ meaningful consequences rather than empty threats -- the methods of discipline that Dr. Dobson goes on to advocate are not only outdated and (frankly) disturbingly brutal, but also are not supported by the extensive body of research that exists in the field of child development and learning. In fact, for Chapters 2-6, in which Dr. Dobson describes the core of his behavior modification strategy, the only sources he cites as reference are his own works! . . . I found this book offensive . . ."

Another reviewer, a Christian: "I strongly believe that the only healthy and Christian way to raise children is non-violently. This book is an encouragement for violence against children. If you want non-violent adults you must raise your children without violence. Compassion is the way of Jesus."

Another reviewer: "Answer this...how can you teach your child not to hit, when you are hitting them?????"

Another reviewer: "I can't believe that in this county we not only treat our children worse than our dogs but we write books about it and make money from it. Love should NEVER hurt. We have made it illegal to beat our spouses but condone the same abuse on human beings that are so much smaller and have no alternatives. Maybe one day in this country children will be recognized as people and not pets, or belongings."

Another reviewer: "'Dare to Discipline' by Dr. James Dobson is a dangerous book that can lead to child abuse."

"Use your logical brain before you follow the advice in this book. Studies repeatedly show that more than 90% of Americans spank their children, but Dobson argues that it is the lack of spanking that is cause of our societal ills. If almost everyone is spanking, and according to Dobson, society is near collapse, then how is it that spanking is the cure?" Dobson, in The Strong-Willed Child, says "Perhaps this tendency toward self-will is the essence of 'original sin' which has infiltrated the human family," after horrifying readers with a grotesque and graphic account of the beating of a Dachsund to show how children's wills should be broken.

Dobson even recommends making kids cut their own "chastening rods" to be used on them, and it turns out he also admits that this type of whipping is what his mother used to do to him. Hmmmmmmm . . . You know, all this violent craziness is starting to make a lot more sense!

A compliant, obedient child is the goal of his discipline method, and this should knock the "original sin" out of the kid, apparently. This man needs a therapist! He says to limit the time the kid can cry (2-5 minutes) after you whip him and if he exceeds that time, whip him some more! For the record, Dobson calls positive discipline "horse manure." Jeez, Dobson, now tell us how you really feel!

In the Dobson book, The New Dare To Discipline, he promotes more religiously motivated child abuse by saying that if a three-year-old has the audacity to not want to take a nap when she isn't tired, beat the poor tyke into submission! Had enough?

As Bill Moyers used to say, "We're not making this stuff up!"

Dobson's apparent vision of babies, who are born evil and need someone to beat them as if they were dogs
Dobson's apparent vision of babies, who are born evil and need someone to beat them as if they were dogs

For other study results involving the comparison of authoritative parenting and other types of parenting styles, see these authors on our website: Gauvain, Baumrind, Maccoby, Lewis, Aunola, Brassington, Hill, Larzelere, Shucksmith, Chao, Ramsey, Strage, Peterson, Fletcher, Gray, Steinberg, Lamborn, Society for the Advancement of Education, Johnson Publishing Company Inc., Berg, Snowden, McIntyre, and Slicker.

Then see our comments on books and/or articles by these authors: Lakoff, Gould, Pugh, Critzer, Popkin, Dinkmeyer, Gordon, Faber, Dreikurs, Solter, Prinz, Kvols, and Nelsen, keeping in mind that this is just the first author listed—many works have more authors and these are listed as well in each of our references.

Next, check out the real courses (begin with Internet searches) that teach various forms of authoritative and democratic parenting, like P.E.T., STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting), Winning Family Lifeskills, Positive Discipline, Redirecting Children’s Behavior, and Positive Parenting, the Ginott method (see our comments on the Faber and Mazlish book Liberated Parents Liberated Children), Dreikur’s democratic parenting (see our comments on his Happy Children book), and Active Parenting.

Finally, it should be noted that parents can influence children's intellectual development—and other types of development as well (e.g., Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ). See Parenting the Young Gifted Child: Supportive Behaviors, Impact of Parenting Practices on Adolescent Achievement, Over Time Changes in Adjustment and Competence Among Adolescents from Authoritative, Authoritarian, Indulgent, and Neglectful Families, Parenting Styles and Adolescent Development, Parenting Styles and Adolescents' Achievement Strategies, Patterns of Competence and Adjustment Among Adolescents from Authoritative, Authoritarian, Indulgent, and Neglectful Families, Discipline That Works, Social Development: Psychological Growth And The Parent-Child Relationship, Toward a Psychology of Being, The Relation of Parenting Style to Adolescent School Performance, Unpacking Authoritative Parenting: Reassessing a Multidimensional Construct, and Quality Day Care, Early, Is Tied to Achievements as an Adult.