Parental Discipline: Reward-Ship or Leader-ship?

Parents are often taught that teaching children good behavior is simply a matter of applying the right rewards and consequences. However, most parents are quickly frustrated when reward and consequences don”t always work.  Most have heard the rebel cry of a 3–year old, “You are not the boss of me!”  As a result, parents continue to look for the ‘right’ discipline techniques in books and from psychologists and feel very frustrated when they fail.

Photo Courtesy iStockphoto

Photo Courtesy iStockphoto

John Rosemond, author of Parenting by the Book, says parents should discipline their children with rewards and consequences and gives suggestions in his book.  However, he recommends that parents complement ‘reward-ship’ with ‘leader-ship’ to be successful.

What leadership principles can parents adopt to be more successful in disciplining their children?  Steven Gibbs, recently shared Jesus’ leadership principles in his message, “Follow the Leader,” from his teaching series, “The Book of Mark: Follow My Lead.”  Parents who apply these leadership principles will become better leaders of their children:

  • Leaders invite others to a relationship.  Jesus reached out to his disciples inviting them to a relationship, to follow him, to watch him and do what he does. While Jesus may have sometimes disapproved of the behavior of his disciples, he affirmed them as his disciples. Farsighted parents spend both quality and quantity time with their children, teach by example the character virtues they want their children to learn. Farsighted parents also may disapprove of their child”s behavior but always show and affirm their love for them.
  • Leaders challenge others to change. When Jesus invited Peter to a relationship, he challenged Peter to change —–  from a fisherman to the world-changing role of fisher of men. Farsighted parents challenge their children to reach beyond their grasp, to see the world through new perspectives, to explore their talents and interests and encourage them when they fail.
  • Leaders teach with authority and act in power.  When Jesus taught in the synagogue, people were amazed at the way he taught with authority. Jesus” authority came from his Father and by doing the will of his Father. Parents who are Christ followers can teach with the same authority. One dad in our group explained it this way, “I teach my children that I live under the authority of God and God has placed you under my authority.”  Parents who are in ‘authority’ command and don’t demand.  They don’t negotiate with their children, they tell them what they expect of them.

A leadership attitude and effective rewards and consequences provide the best discipline strategy.  Monica and I found reward and consequences helpful when our children were younger.  For one of our daughters, taking away her favorite Disney movie was a great motivator for good behavior.  We also learned that a leadership attitude was important when rewards and consequences didn”t work. Growing up, our son was a great negotiator and liked to ask ‘why’ multiple times when Monica or I said, ‘no.’   We learned quickly that negotiating with our children didn’t work.  ‘Because I said so,’ from a parent in authority is enough.

Question:  What leadership principles have you found helpful when rewards and consequences don”t work?  Please share your comments here.

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