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By Prevention Specialist Caleb Akers

In the ever-advancing world of technology and societal development, there has been a plethora of literature regarding parenting. One of the most supreme parenting guides that have helped me as a new father was the book: “Bringing Up Boys”, by Dr. James Dobson. In his review, he addresses many aspects of parenting from a variety of viewpoints. Dr. Dobson depicts in his writings the importance of the role of the parents in the home as a stream with banks. He says very descriptively “a stream without banks becomes a swamp. It is your job as parents to build the channel in which the stream will run” (Dobson, 2001, pp. 230) giving a picture that parents are to guide their children and create space for them to flow freely, yet controllably. 

Dr. Dobson continues with his vivid thoughts exclaiming that “a child will be ruled by either the rudder or the rock. Authority, when balanced by love, is the rudder that steers your child around the jagged boulders that could rip the bottom of their fragile boats. Without you, disaster is inevitable” (Dobson, 2001, pp. 230). It’s important, according to Dr. Dobson, that parents understand the vital role they play within the home, and that skills such as “positive parenting” are fostered by both parents. 

Positive parenting is built on respect for children and helps develop self-esteem, inner discipline, self-confidence, responsibility, and resourcefulness. In general, positive family environments characterized by support, warmth, communication, and promotion of autonomy appear to be key for promoting positive development in adolescents (Ibabe & Bentler, 2016). Positive parenting is also good for parents: parents feel good about parenting well. It builds a sense of dignity. Positive parenting can be learned (Ahmann, 2002). One very controversial element in parenting is strategies for effective discipline. Some believe that physical punishment in the form of spanking, hitting, swatting, smacking, etc. is the most effective form of discipline. 

However, studies such as the one conducted by Dr. Dobson on adolescent responses and behavioral changes to physical touch say differently. In particular, effective non-violent discipline skills, and positive encouragement and involvement with children have been shown to be crucial, at multiple developmental stages, for predicting lower levels of aggressive and risky behavior (Knerr et al., 2013). This book by Dr. Dobson has been a vital tool in my home and a great resource for my wife and me as new parents.


Ahmann, E. (2002). Promoting positive parenting: An annotated bibliography Retrieved from

Dobson, J. (2001). Bringing up boys: shaping the next generation of boys. Tyndale House  Publishers, Inc.

Ibabe, I., & Bentler, P. M. (2016). The contribution of family relationships to child-to-parent violence. Journal of Family Violence, 31(2), 259-269. DOI:

Knerr, W., Gardner, F., & Cluver, L. (2013). Improving positive parenting skills and reducing harsh and abusive parenting in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review. Prevention Science, 14(4), 352-63. DOI: