Return to Home
Stephen Greenspan, PhD
Exploring and facilitating human competence
Parenting and Discipline

My interest in parenting and discipline grew out of my interest in social competence. That is because the purpose of discipline (the aspect of parenting that most interests me) is not just to manage or reduce conflict (its short-term goal) but to promote and facilitate the development of social competence in children (its long-term goal). Furthermore, effective discipline can be considered a form of adult social competence and caregivers who are inept at discipline are sometimes (but not always) inept in other social roles as well. I have been involved in two areas of scholarship relating to parenting and discipline: (a) development of the "ABC theory of discipline", and (b) research and assessment relating to parents who have intellectual disabilities.

The ABC Theory of Discipline is an attempt to integrate the three major approaches - Affective (Freudian), Behavioral (Skinnerian) and Cognitive (Adlerian) - by showing how they each have a principle intended to help caregivers to be competent in three discipline domains (Warmth, Tolerance and Influence) and to help children to be competent on three social competence domains (Happiness, Boldness and Niceness). The resulting nine principles comprise a coordinated system that enables caregivers (teachers as well as parents) to deal effectively with a wide range of challenges. The ABC framework also helps caregivers to be more discerning consumers of the discipline literature. A book based on this framework, ELEMENTS OF DISCIPLINE, is currently being considered by a publisher.

The second area of scholarship involves development of a framework for assessing the support needs of marginally functioning parents (many of them with cognitive impairments) who are in danger of losing custody of their children. This work can be considered an extension of my work on "foolish action", in that child neglect can be reformulated as an inability to recognize potentially dangerous or unhealthy consequences of specific childrearing situations or practices. It is also part of the "Supported Parenting" movement, a challenging and somewhat controversial part of the paradigm shift in Intellectual Disability services.