Your toddler and her friend are fighting over a doll.

When the friend pulls it away from her, your daughter punches the girl and grabs it back.

Do you:

Take the doll away and explain to the girls that they can have it back when they can share and play nicely together?

Do nothing. After all, it is your daughter’s doll. Her friend can find something else to play with; kids need to sort out their own problems.

Take the doll away and tell your daughter that you’re selling it in a garage sale. She can start saving her allowance if she wants it back.

What you do depends a lot on your parenting style. Are you strict, lenient or balanced?

Debate over parenting styles has come into the news after Yale law professor Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was recently released, coinciding with a controversial column in The Wall Street Journal in which she shared her secrets for raising two successful daughters. Among the highlights: her children were not allowed to have any playdates or sleepovers, TV or computer games; she insisted on hours of music practice daily; and if they earned anything less than an A grade, they’d be scolded, shamed and punished.

Like her style or not, it’s certainly sparked debate over how to raise kids.

Over at Niagara’s public health department, parenting gurus like Angela Alfieri-Maiolo, manager of Healthy Babies, Healthy Children, and Helen Flynn, public health nurse in the child health program, talk about three basic styles — strict, lenient and balanced.

Of course, balanced is the ideal. And they offer classes like Triple P Parenting on how to get there. (For all parents, by the way, not just the ones with challenging kids.)

While there are lots of nuances to the three styles, they are based on two benchmarks — how much control the parents have and how responsive they are to their kids needs and abilities. It’s also likely that parents are a little bit of every style, but what matters most, is how they respond to their kids MOST often, they say.

Here’s the breakdown. Strict parents. High level of control, low level of responsiveness.

They’re the ones who yank the doll away at the first sign of a fight. End of story.

True, children know your expectations, are obedient, perform well in school and don’t usually get into trouble with drugs or alcohol. They seem like ideal children. They question nothing because they know you don’t negotiate. Your style is pretty much, “Do as I say, or else,” says Flynn.

You get immediate results (fighting stops), but they haven’t learned how to communicate with you or each other.

Over time, children are more prone to depression, lower self-esteem and poor social skills, says Flynn.

Because you tell them what to do all the time, they don’t learn to problem-solve and may be more susceptible to peer influence when they get older.

“Strict parents don’t teach their children to think for themselves,” says Flynn.

Lenient parent. Low=level control, high-level responsiveness.

In the fight over the doll, they do nothing and hope that the kids will eventually settle it themselves.

In your household, the kids make the final decisions. Mature behaviour isn’t required and they don’t take responsibility for anything at home.

Parents give in to avoid confrontation, and if there are rules, don’t enforce them consistently, says Flynn.

Kids are more susceptible to peer pressure, antisocial behaviour, alcohol and drug use, and make other bad decisions. They don’t know how to problem-solve.

They do poorer at school, although they are less depressed and get along well with friends, she says.

Balanced parent. High control, high responsiveness.

They may take away the doll, but follow it up with talk about how to share, how to take turns. You recognize that normal development means the toddlers don’t have the words or actions to sort it out for themselves yet and need your guidance. They give the kids a second chance to earn back the doll.

This is the ideal. There are rules and limits, with room for negotiation and input from your kids. Ultimately, though, the parent makes the final decision.

“Children do better with limits,” says Alfieri-Maiolo. “It makes their day more predictable.”

They feel safe and secure. And when they’re comfortable they learn and behave better. Kids will co-operate, not because they fear punishment or think “mom will be mad at me,” but because they understand right from wrong.

They also make better decisions because they’ve had lots of practice making choices and problem-solving. “You teach children to think for themselves,” says Flynn.

Start giving them choices when they’re young, while still standing your ground on the rules you’ve established. Case in point: they don’t have a choice on whether or not to go to bed, but can decide if they’d like the night-light on or off . You don’t budge on having to get dressed in the morning, but they can decide the colour of clothes they’d like to wear.

They know what’s expected of them. And feel valued because they have responsibilities. Consider this: “If everything is done for me, I learn nothing,” says Flynn.

Truth is, it’s not easy to be balanced. It takes lots of practice. And it helps to keep your own emotions under control, she says.

And keep these thoughts in mind.

You are not perfect. You will mess up. “It’s OK to say, I made a mistake, I didn’t mean to yell at you,” says Flynn.

And if you want to change, you can. Anytime, says Flynn.

“It’s never too late to have a good relationship with your child.”

HOME IS THE NEW FIRST GRADE – Teach Your Child to Count to 10 – Early Learning Method

MATH & LOGIC GAME FOR PRESCHOOLERS– iCount-to-10 – iPhone/iPad Application

Source: St. Catharines Standard –