It’s actually a bit of both. There are times when you need to take a pragmatic scientific approach and others when a more creative response is appropriate.
So, for example it makes scientific sense to get the right child restraints for car journeys or maintain the right room temperature for a sleeping baby. But there is also an art to parenting which involves being more imaginative in your tactics - when trying to coax a reluctant child into eating their greens or when trying to give them the confidence to let go of your hand when learning to ride a bike for example.
"One of parents’ biggest obstacles is wanting to be in control all the time."
Eisenhower’s famous quote on the art of leadership couldn’t be more relevant to parenting. ‘Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because they want to do it.’ This is exactly what we want to do with our children. Often what we want to achieve for our children is for them to want to do things for themselves. Sometimes because we simply want to get things done like leave the house on time, but more often because we want to teach them how to be independent. One of parents’ biggest obstacles is wanting to be in control all the time.
But the truth is, having children is the ultimate loss of control and as parents we need to learn to let go sometimes too. You have to maintain certain boundaries, keep them safe and make rules but at the same time let children establish autonomy for them to really develop and thrive. In the work place we use all sorts of techniques to get better results from colleagues and subordinates. It’s only logical to employ these techniques in the home too, but strangely very few of us do.
"Instead of making threats all the time that often end up being empty threats such as 'If you don’t eat your dinner, you can’t watch any television.' Try: 'As soon as you’ve finished your dinner, you can watch a little television'"
Parenting skills and techniques can be honed and taught in the same way that leadership skills in a corporate environment can. It’s exactly the same. For example instead of giving orders to children try to give them choices and ask them questions. Don’t say, ‘Go brush your teeth?’ say, ‘Do you remember what else you are supposed to do before going to bed?’It’s much better to ask questions and keep children in ‘thinking’ mode. That way there’s a lot less repetition of information and a lot less opposition from them.
Instead of making threats all the time that often end up being empty threats such as 'If you don’t eat your dinner, you can’t watch any television.' Try: 'As soon as you’ve finished your dinner, you can watch a little television.' By couching it in this way you remove the opposition or the oppressiveness that is wielded by the threat and are more likely to illicit good behaviour without a struggle.