Parenting Therapy: Old School vs. New School Parenting Techniques

May 7, 2015 | Mood


Remember the Bobby Knight debacle? The Indiana Hoosiers head coach who threatened and yelled and threw chairs at people? 15 years later, we’re still talking about his behavior and how coaches everywhere have had to change or get benched.

Will Grover, my favorite boxing coach, says the old school of coaching was all about intimidation and control.


You wanted to win no matter the cost. But in the new school, relationships matter more than the outcome of a game. Will says he can always tell the difference between boxers coached by old school versus new school coaches – the latter group being much better athletes.

“I get on eye level with my boxers, ask how they’re doing, help them calm down and rest if they need to.” Will comes from the new school. “That person is more important than winning a match,” he says. “Love is way more effective than attrition.”

I see the same thing in parents during parenting therapy and parenting counseling sessions.  Those with a healthy attachment to their kids tend not to hit or threaten. I’d call them New School Parents. They listen, make eye contact, and try to understand the situation from their child’s perspective. Does that mean they let the child run the show? Absolutely not. But New School Parents know relationship is way more effective than domination.

 Let’s look at these two schools of parenting, side by side:

Old School Priorities   New School Priorities
Using power over child.   Sharing power with child.
Compliance, obedience.        Emotional connection.
 Outcomes – no matter the cost.     Process – this moment.
Preset images of good and bad: what child should be Evolving understanding of child as unique person

Old School parents tend to use force when they feel their authority being challenged or if they perceive noncompliance. They hit, yell, and threaten. Ironically, these parents sometimes have the most trouble with follow-through on natural consequences (like taking away privileges) – which may be why they use reactionary corporal tactics in the moment (e.g., yelling, slapping). They have shaky or absent emotional connection with their child. Old School parents hide their own emotional process from their children and try to maintain a facade of emotionless control.

New school parents may still lapse into old school behaviors (lots of us learned these old practices from our parents). But New School parents think about intention and repair. New School parents come back, reset, and apologize. They aim to talk and listen. They share their own feelings and try to understand those of their child. Although they’re responsible for setting limits, New School parents constantly adjust those limits to the needs of their child. New School parents can admit their mistakes and imperfections – and they’re more comfortable figuring it out as they go.

Children of New School parents learn that life is not so much about winning and being right as it is about love and connection.

Check out tips about Nonviolent Parenting here:

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