January 28, 2010

Debate on Discipline

Reading up on parenting ideas, I came across this debate on the Genius Child Program blog.  The question presented is whether or not a parent should have to reason with a child to get them to obey.  As I began to read the responses, I was largely disappointed.  The majority of parents gave a simple, black-or-white answer that their child should always simply obey.  That no matter what the circumstance, if their child doesn't listen, they get punished.  That the parent, as an authority, must maintain their authority by demanding blind obedience.

How disappointing!  Let me ask every parent and teacher to look back at your own childhood.  Do you remember your frustration with parents, teachers or coaches who never listened to you?  These people did not show you any respect, and they probably didn't get much of yours.  They were tyrants.

On the other hand, we have all also experienced a parent, teacher or boss who had no authority.  They allowed their homes, classrooms or workplaces to deteriorate into anarchy.  They were walked-on and taken advantage of.

What's a parent to do with these two extremes?  Find the golden mean.

If you want your children to love and respect you, you must show them love and respect.  Yes, respect.  Listen to your children.  Hear them out!  Let them vent their feelings or frustrations in a situation.  Being able to have a mutually respectful dialog with your child when they are school-aged will set you up for greater success when your child is a teenager.

For example, if you have to fight with your child each night to get their homework done, talk to them about it.  Tell them you're not happy with the situation as it stands; chances are, they're not happy either.  Ask to brainstorm solutions with your child.  Maybe your child would prefer doing their homework after dinner and you've been insisting that they do it as soon as they get home from school.  This is a good compromise.  After all, it isn't your homework.  If you give your child some input into the solution, they'll be more likely to stick with it.

But: do not give up your authority as a parent.  I repeat, your job is not to be your kid's buddy.  You should still be an authority figure.  You should still be a parent.  In the end, what you say goes.  Let's say you've had a long discussion about the pros and cons of your 16 year-old going on an unsupervised spring break trip.  You think it's a bad idea; your kid thinks it's a great idea.  Feel free to say no (and I strongly feel that's the word you want here).  Sure, your kid will probably still be upset; but I guarantee there will be less damage done than if you'd refused to listen at all.

Parents need to find a way to walk the fine line that all good leaders must.  A good leader listens to all sides of an issue, then makes a decision for the best of all involved.  There's nothing wrong with ruling the roost; just don't be a tyrant.

P.S.  Leave a comment with your opinion on this issue.  I'd love to hear from a variety of points of view.


  1. Agreed 100%. If kids don't feel respected then it gives them every reason to rebel once they're old enough that they're hard to punish or keep at home. These kids will feel that they don't have to listen to their parents advice since they're finally "grown up," making it that much easier for them to be led astray by peers who may be in the wrong crowd.