She was dry, she was fed, there was nothing wrong except for the fact she was mad about being in the car seat. She didn’t need a spanking; she needed reality. We never went through that battle with Josh. Why? Paige took care of it. One day Josh started complaining about being in the car seat; Paige told him not to waste his time crying about it. It wouldn’t work.
Here is the point: Preschoolers through kindergartners cannot be in charge of our homes. They need unconditional love and acceptance, and they need to learn to respond to authority.
The second age group is children from about the first grade through about the fifth grade. The line of authority should go up ever so slightly. You are basically an authoritarian parent but you begin to let the children make some decisions on their own with direction. For example, you would walk in with three outfits and ask “Christie, which one of these outfits would you like to wear today?” he is beginning to make the choices, but you’re deciding what the parameters of the choices are.
By the time a child hits middle school, you need to be a full-blown authoritative parent. Everything is up for discussion. If they don’t want to go to school, let’s talk with them about it. If they don’t want to go to practice, let’s talk with them about it. If they want to start staying up late, let’s talk with them about it. Ever is up for discussion. But you always reserve the right at the end of conversation to say, “While I understand how you feel, this is where the boundaries are going to be and why.” Authoritative parents give their teenagers more and more freedom as they earn the right to have it. How do they earn it? Through responsible and trustworthy behavior.
Hints for effective internal fence building
First, as a parent, you must decide on your goals for discipline. Begin with the end in mind. Ultimately, what are you trying to accomplish? For Debra and me, our goal for discipline with our children is to teach them to be self-disciplined. In other words, our goal is for them to leave our home having decided for themselves to be the best they can be. Everything we do in discipline boils right back down to that statement.
We want them to be winners who discover their purpose in life, grow to their maximum potential, and sow seeds that benefit others.
Each parent must decide what their ultimate goal is for discipline.
Remember that a successful family is built around core values. The difference between animals and people is that people have the right and freedom to choose. Animals are born with, and are driven by, instinct.
But, people have the ability to choose, and the ability to choose assumes values.
Second, embrace their drive for independence. It is normal and necessary for them to desire independence. While it’s painful to you as a parent, believe me, you want a pulling away to occur. You do not want them at thirty years old with their spouse and kids in your home permanently. You want them to be independent. I know a man who said, really struggled with this whole empty nest syndrome.” He said he struggled with it for about seven or eight minutes and from then on, it’s been great. Accept their drive for independence as normal and necessary.
Third, realize they want you to be tough. Some of you are thinking, “This guy has just lost his mind.” No, they want you to be tough. It’s true, It is also a fact that every child will test and break your rules or limits no matter where you place them. I don’t care how permissive you are or how firm. It doesn’t matter how tight or how far out the boundaries are. They will test and break them. Believe it or not, deep down in their hearts, they want you to be tough. They know when you are firm it means you love them.
My dad had been a Sergeant in the Marines. He would walk into my room some mornings while I was sound asleep, “Hup, two, three, four. Hup, two, three, four.” He was still a full-blooded Marine at heart.
I had a friend growing up who was great to spend the night with. His mom and dad both drank a lot. By 11:00p.m., they were usually out for the night. We finished off what was left in the alcohol department and then went out running around until two or three o’clock in the morning. I loved spending the night with him. However, he was almost always at our house; recently, we watched all the “Pipes family” movies, and he was in everything.   He was on most vacations and at almost every major family event. He grew up at our house. Now why would somebody raised by loose standards choose to live in a house with a Marine when he could stay home and have few rules’?
Recently, at my father’s funeral, this friend explained it this way, “Jerry, your dad was as tough as a boot but we always knew he loved us and wanted the best for us.”
I promise you this: Your kids are going to push and scream. They will tell you how unfair you are and how everybody else gets to do every thing you are saying no to. But deep down in their hearts, they want you to be tough because they know that when you are strict and have rules, it means that you care.
Fourth, set up rules that allow you to be as positive as possible.
Remember, you’ll be saying “no” an awful lot. So pick your battles.
There are some things that really are not worth wasting the emotional energy over. If your teenagers are struggling with major issues, it would probably be smart to not make a big deal out of whether or not their room is like you want it to be. Remember, authoritative parents extend the boundaries allowing more and more freedom as their teenagers earn the right to have it.
Having rules that allow you to be positive means that you start with tight boundaries so you can reward responsible behavior with more freedom, if you give up too much territory up front, you have less to work with.
Fifth, teach your children through reality discipline. All children, regardless of age, must experience the consequences of their behavior.
Notice that I am saying. “Teach through reality discipline.” Discipline is about instruction remember, we are internal fence building (self-discipline). Reality discipline is the only discipline that will get you to self discipline. I’m not saying you shouldn’t spank your child during the early years, especially for defiant behavior. However, by the time they get to be older elementary age or middle school age, you need to be building internal fences through reality discipline.
So, what is reality discipline? It is developing boundaries, establishing natural consequences, and being consistent in enforcement. This is the only discipline that truly works. We all, young and old, learn through reality.