|"Treat all others as you would like to be treated
The Golden Rule has proved its excellence as a moral guide since ancient times.
Greek and Jewish thinkers, Confucius, Jesus, and other teachers of ethics all taught
this rule, which is called "golden" to indicate its revered place as the
ultimate rule of life. What better teaching can we utilize in our day-to-day
approach to parenting? A variation of the Golden Rule for parents would be
"Treat your child as you would like to be treated if you were in the same
It might be illuminating to apply this "Parenting Golden Rule" to
several common methods of discipline, by considering the case of a husband and wife
in the "same position" as that of children being disciplined in various
1. Physical punishment
The wife accidentally spills coffee on her husband's new jacket. He hits her.
Will the wife be more careful with his belongings in the future? Or might she
have him arrested for spousal abuse?
The husband starts to argue with a visiting friend. The wife tells him
"It's not nice to argue with your friend! I won't have this! Go sit in the
bedroom for half an hour!"
Will the husband become less argumentative? Will the embarrassment of the
situation set him straight? Will he feel like apologizing to his friend?
The wife is out driving, forgets to fill the tank, and runs out of gas. She
phones her husband to ask him to take his car to buy some gas and bring it to her.
He refuses, explaining that she has to learn from "natural consequences"
to be more responsible.
The next time the tank is low, will the wife remember to get it filled? Or will
she be too preoccupied with fantasies of divorce to think about less important
matters like car maintenance?
The wife reminds her husband, who is reading the newspaper after dinner, that
it's his turn to do the dishes. He murmurs, "Mm hmm," and keeps on
reading. The wife says, firmly "You have to do the dishes now!
Will the husband then feel like cooperating with his wife? Or will he conclude
that he's married a lunatic? And would he feel the least bit loved?
All of these disciplinary methods look ridiculous when viewed in this way. But
the reason for this is that our society at some point decided that children and
adults respond to others according to different principles of behavior. This has
been a very harmful mistake. The truth is that children, like adults, feel most like
cooperating with those who treat them with kindness, respect, understanding, and
dignity. The only "method" that makes sense in a humane relationship -
whether with a child or an adult - is unconditional love.
In our society, we have been asking the wrong question. We have asked,
"Which set of rules work with children, and which set works with adults?"
The reality is, happily, far simpler: all humans behave as well as they are treated.
Age makes no difference.
Parents wanting to help their children grow to be loving and responsible adults
can do no better than to remember the Parenting Golden Rule: "Treat your child
as you would like to be treated if you were in the same position." It's simple,
straightforward, and effective. And we don't need to spend any time finding out what
age someone is before consulting this rule. One size fits all.