In my most popular presentation — Parenting With Love and Leadership — I reveal the secret to proper, effective discipline: acting like a superior being.
Today's parents have been seduced by behavior modification theory into thinking that effective discipline is all about the proper (consistent) use of the proper consequences. In other words, they think that effective discipline is a matter of manipulating reward and punishment. Consequences are sometimes necessary, but over-relying on them is certain to backfire.
Think about it: The teacher who always has the fewest discipline problems, who is regarded by her peers as the best disciplinarian in the school, is not controlling her class by using behavior-modification-based classroom management strategies. What is she doing? She's simply acting like a superior being. In a calm, composed manner, she projects an overarching confidence in the legitimacy of her authority. A child's natural response to this is obedience.
The question then becomes, "How does one act like a superior being?" The answer: Act as if you know what you're doing, that you rather enjoy doing it, and that it matters not to you whether your kids (or students) do or don't approve of your decisions. You love them, and/or you know what is best for them, and that's all that matters.
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After a recent talk, a fellow told me he wasn't comfortable with the idea of acting superior to his kids. He said it reminded him of his dad, who disciplined through threat, anger and repeated spankings.
"Your father was frustrated, tense, angry and wanted you to behave for his benefit, for his convenience," I replied. "I thought I made clear that's not at all what I'm talking about. The parent who successfully acts like a superior being is calm, composed, unflappable and wants his kids to behave for their benefit."
"Their benefit?" he asked, skeptically.
"Right! Their benefit. The best research into parenting outcomes confirms common sense: the most obedient kids are also the happiest kids."
I went on to explain how leadership principles apply to raising kids. Parenting is, after all, a leadership function. The rules of leadership are few and simple: Be decisive; be declarative (as opposed to persuasive); be purposeful; be determined; be commanding (as opposed to demanding). Act like a superior being.
The fellow wasn't convinced, so I asked him, "Who knows more about the real world and how to properly live a good life — you or your child?"
"I do, of course," he answered.
"Who relies upon whom for protection and life's basic necessities?"
"My child relies upon me."
"Right! And your child needs to know you are capable of providing for and protecting him under any and all circumstances. It is to his benefit that he sees you as a superior being, which you've already told me you are. So act like one. It's that simple."
"So," he said, smiling now, "back to my dad. ... He was really just an ignorant cuss."
"That is the forgiving perspective."
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his Web site, Rosemond.com.
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