Children Respond Better to Parenting that 'Explains' Rather than Disciplines

First Posted: Mar 20, 2014 12:11 PM EDT

We were all kids once. Remember when you were reprimanded to specifically not do something? Chances are, if we didn't receive an explanation as to why we shouldn't be doing that particular action, we went ahead and did it anyway.

In the case of dangerous injuries, a study has shown that parents who explain and guide their children through a conversation were more likely to see positive results in their child's behavior. Jodie Plumert, a psychologist at the University of Iowa, conducted the study with her co-researcher, graduate student Elizabeth O'Neal.

Plumert's study consisted of 63 mothers and their children between the ages of eight and ten. There were a few phases of the experiment. First, the mothers and children were given photographs of children who were involved in situations with varying degrees of danger. Then, the mother and child rated how dangerous each photographed situation was, where the researchers recorded the conversations.

The researchers found that about one-third of the time the mother and child disagreed over the degree of danger in a given situation, but after the mother explained why and how the activity was dangerous, the child ended up agreeing with them 80% of the time. For example, when discussing why it wasn't safe to go near a hot stove, the mother would explain that a sleeve could catch on fire, instead of merely explaining that it's hot and unsafe to be around.

"When kids have done something that isn't safe, or hurt themselves, it's easy for parents to say, 'Don't do that again,' or 'Be more careful,'" said Dr. Plumert in this Live Science article. "That's fine to say, but I think the real lesson here is for parents to really explain to their kids why something isn't safe."

The findings of Dr. Plumert's study will be published today in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. This study primarily consisted of white mothers with college degrees, and Dr. Plumert hopes to examine how mothers of other social classes speak with their children in future research. 

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