Con­sis­tent dis­ci­pline key to fix­ing child’s at­ti­tude

The Covington News - - Religion -

QUES­TION: My five-yearold is one of those ram­bunc­tious kids who gives us fits. There are times when I think he’s try­ing to take over the en­tire fam­ily. I’ve never re­ally un­der­stood him be­fore but I guess he just doesn’t want any­one telling him what to do.

DOB­SON: That is pre­cisely how he feels. It is sur­pris­ing how com­monly this ba­sic im­pulse of chil­dren is over­looked. In­deed, I think the re­ally tough kids un­der­stand the strug­gle for con­trol even bet­ter than their par­ents who are bogged down with adult re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and wor­ries. Chil­dren de­vote their pri­mary ef­fort to the power game while we grown-ups play only when we must.

Some time you might ask a group of chil­dren about the adults who lead them. They will in­stantly tell you, with one voice, which grown-ups are skilled in han­dling them and which aren’t. Ev­ery school­child can name the teach­ers who are in con­trol and those who are in­tim­i­dated by kids.

One fa­ther over­heard his five-year-old daugh­ter, Laura, say to her lit­tle sis­ter who was do­ing some­thing wrong, “Mmmm, I’m go­ing to tell Mom­mie on you. No! I’ll tell Daddy. He’s worse!” Laura had eval­u­ated the au­thor­ity of her two par­ents and con­cluded that one was more ef­fec­tive than the other.

This same child was ob­served by her fa­ther to have be­come es­pe­cially dis­obe­di­ent and de­fi­ant. She was ir­ri­tat­ing other fam­ily mem­bers and looking for ways to avoid mind­ing her par­ents. Her dad de­cided not to con­front her di­rectly but to pun­ish her con­sis­tently for ev­ery of­fense un­til she set­tled down. Thus, for three or four days, he let Laura get away with noth­ing. She was spanked, stood in the cor­ner and sent to her bed­room.

Near the end of the fourth day, she was sit­ting on the bed with her fa­ther and younger sis­ter. Without p r ovo c a - tion, Laura pulled the hair of the tod­dler who was looking at a book. Her dad promptly thumped her on the head with his large hand. Laura did not cry, but sat in si­lence for a mo­ment or two, and then said, “Har­rumph! All my tricks are not work­ing!”

This is the con­clu­sion you want your strong-willed son to draw: “It’s too risky to take on Mom or Dad, so let’s get with the pro­gram.”

QUES­TION: I am 21 and also still at home. I am very comfortable there, and I plan to stay with my par­ents for a long time. Why not? Tell me why you think it is un­wise to go on liv­ing where it is cheaper and eas­ier than get­ting out on your own.

DOB­SON: There are in­di­vid­ual sit­u­a­tions when it makes sense to live with your par­ents for a longer time, and maybe yours is one of them. I would cau­tion you, how­ever, not to over­stay your wel­come. That would not be in your best in­ter­ests or those of your folks. Re­main­ing too long un­der the par­ents’ roof is not un­like an un­born baby who re­fuses to leave the womb. He has ev­ery rea­son to stay awhile. It is warm and cozy there. All his needs are met in that stress-free en­vi­ron­ment. He doesn’t have to work or study or dis­ci­pline him­self.

But it would be crazy to stay be­yond the nine months in­tended. He can’t grow and learn without leav­ing the se­cu­rity of that place. His de­vel­op­ment will be ar­rested un­til he en­ters the cold world and takes a few whacks on his be­hind. It is to every­one’s ad­van­tage, and es­pe­cially to the wel­fare of his mother, that he slide on down the birth canal and get on with life.

So it is in young adult­hood. Un­til you cut the um­bil­i­cal cord and be­gin pro­vid­ing for your­self, you will re­main in a state of ar­rested de­vel­op­ment. Re­main­ing at home with Mom and Dad is the per­pet­u­a­tion of child­hood. It may be time to put it be­hind you.

Dr. Dob­son is founder and chair­man of the board of the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion Fo­cus on the Fam­ily, Colorado Springs, CO 80995(www. fam­ily. org). Ques­tions and an­swers are ex­cerpted from “Solid An­swers” and “Bring­ing Up Boys,” both pub­lished by Tyn­dale House.

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