In the final two chapters of Parenting by the Book, John Rosemond encourages parents to adopt a Biblical leadership attitude in disciplining their children. A prior article describes ‘leadership’ principles that parents can use with their children (‘Parental Discipline: Reward-ship or Leader-ship?‘). In the final chapter of the book, John gives farsighted parents three building blocks of effective discipline: Command, Compel and Confirm. Follow these recommendations to control the chaos in your household:
Disciplinary Communications must command. Parents can reduce the stress dealing with behavior problems by using leadership speech. Let your ‘yes be yes’ and ‘no be no.’ Sounds simple but difficult to do. If children don’t like a decision, they usually don’t like your reasons either so don’t get drawn into a long argument. Make your explanations 5 words or less. ‘Because I said so,’ is a good explanation (4 words). You get the idea.
Disciplinary consequences must compel. Parents have the greatest chance of reducing bad behavior if consequences create a permanent memory. Delayed punishment doesn’t work for animals but does for children. Monica and I found that delaying punishment for bad behavior in a grocery store or shopping center until we got home worked with our children. Our children knew the reason for the discipline and we avoided additional stress in the restaurant or store.
Disciplinary consistency must confirm. Even when consequences don’t work, stay the course. Remember Deuteronomy 6:6–7, ‘These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Rewards and consequences change over a child’s seasons of life but parents’ disciplinary attitude should be consistent.
What would you do?
Asked what happens when tough consequences don’t work, John Rosemond says, ‘do as little for them as the law allows and love them as much as you heart allows, emancipate them as soon as possible, let the real world become their teacher and you should keep on praying.”
Here’s an example of extreme discipline reported recently in a Florida community (read the story and watch here): Parents of a 15–year old teenage girl took an extreme disciplinary measure in response to their daughters multiple instances of lying, drinking and sneaking in and out overnight, one time with a boy. For her punishment, the daughter stood on a local street corner with her parents and a sign describing her transgressions for all to see (also on YouTube).
When Monica and I first heard the story, our first reaction was that the punishment was too extreme. However, when we learned that more traditional punishment consequences had not worked (parents said the daughter just laughed), we reconsidered. Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15 about confronting sin in the church: Confront sin privately with the person in hopes of winning the person over. If not successful, bring 2–3 others along. If still no change of heart, then take the issue ultimately in front of the whole church.
I don’t think a street corner is the right public venue to discipline a 15–yr old but I believe discipline that doesn’t work in private, needs to be done in public.
Question: What would you do if you faced the same situation as the parents of the 15–year old in the story? How severe should the consequences be for a child who doesn’t respond to other discipline? Share your answers here.