Dr. Ray on Discipline
by Dr. Ray Guarendi
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Discipline — it’s a word that once had a pretty good reputation. Parents instinctively knew that discipline was something kids needed. It was good for them. It taught them the basics of living: character, morals, responsibility, respect.
But in the last generation or two, discipline has received a spanking. Some experts proclaim that really savvy parents shouldn’t have to discipline much. They can talk and reason children into cooperating instead. The media bombard parents with all the latest theories on psychological correctness. And the culture relentlessly echoes the attitude that words such as “authority,” “limits” and “control” are old-fashioned concepts we need to throw off.
No matter what trendy notions permeate parenting today, reality always wins. Discipline still is critical to raising moral people. It still is a loving, durable gift that lasts a lifetime. And it still is something parents instinctively know is good for their children.
What do I mean by “discipline”? Poll a hundred people — parents or experts — and you’ll likely get a hundred varying definitions of the word. Some might say the only good discipline is an old-fashioned spanking. Others would define discipline as teaching. The former is too narrow for our purposes, and the latter is too broad.
I prefer to define discipline in a pretty straightforward, commonsense manner: to put limits and expectations upon a child’s behavior, backed by consequences when necessary, in order to socialize and build character.
Indeed, no area of child rearing causes more day-to-day uncertainty, guilt, and frustration than discipline. We may find ourselves asking: Are my expectations too high? Am I too strict? Too lax? When should I discipline? Where? How much? What if I’m wrong? How can I get my kids to listen? Is their behavior normal?
Here is what I tell parents:
1. More than anyone else, you know what's best for your child.
2. Authority is not a bad word.
3. Discipline, by and large, is not complicated. Good ideas for administering discipline are straightforward and easy for you to use. Similar techniques can work for a wide range of problems.
4. Most importantly, parenthood is God-designed to be enjoyed. We’re all in this together. We share the same worries and frustrations. So let’s lighten up, laugh more, and love our children enough to do what's best for them — and for us, too.
Dr. Guarendi is a family psychologist and author of Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime (Servant Books, 2003) and You’re a Better Parent Than You Think (Fireside, 1984).