When Sharon Silver was 12, in the 1960s, her parents Ñ Ozzie and Harriet types Ñ morphed into hippies.
Going from strict discipline to total permissiveness threw Silver and her siblings off kilter, she says. But the abrupt shift also sparked the Portland woman's lifelong questioning of all aspects of parenting.
Now a parent educator, Silver helps other parents find that delicate balance where a child feels safe and loved yet has consistent and appropriate discipline.
'My own childhood was punctuated with such phrases as 'Children are to be seen and not heard,' and 'Do as I say, not as I do,' ' she says. 'I got the message Ñ parents were boss, and I was not to mess with that strict setup.'
Although Silver's newly hippie parents stopped disciplining her at all, which caused its own set of problems, many parents of that generation kept to the old ways.
'As baby boomers, a lot of us decided we wanted our kids to like us more than we liked our own parents,' Silver says. 'Many of us created an overcompensation where permissiveness set in.'
Today, countless parents want to swing the pendulum of parenting back toward the center. At the very least, we know we don't want to raise our kids the same way we were raised.
But making changes doesn't come easily; parents often need assistance, and conflicting advice from experts complicates the process.
Silver says her philosophies and techniques parallel those of Jim Fay, co-author of the book 'Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility' and founder of the Love and Logic Institute, a parent education organization in Golden, Colo.
In 'Parenting,' Fay outlines a set of rules to help adults set limits for children in a loving way and treat childhood misbehavior as an opportunity to gain wisdom.
Silver says: 'I want parents to understand that they must begin giving kids responsibility and make them accountable for their own decisions and actions. After all, parenting is about working yourself out of a job by releasing your children into themselves, bit by bit.'
As a vehicle for getting those messages across, Silver has created the Center for Conscious Parenting, which offers local parenting classes and support groups.
'I want to kill the urban myth that parenting classes are for high-risk families,' she says. 'I believe that healthy parents are capable of being the experts on their children and their families.'