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Discipline Wednesday September 5, 2012


When I was a child, my parents made it perfectly clear, at a very early age, that if I didn't behave as they expected me to,there would be consequences. Respect your elders; help out around the house; obey the teachers; and apply yourself in school.

You may have heard of a recently published report in the Journal of Pediatrics that says that physical punishment of children increases their chances of mood, anxiety and personality disorders, as well as alcohol and drug abuse in adulthood. It appears that by physical punishment they include spanking.

I can't argue with the results of this study, so ok, no spanking. But I fear the pendulum has swung too far the other way. So far in fact that young people are no longer disciplined at all. No longer taught to be respectful of others. No longer taught what is right and what is wrong.

I can't tell you how many times I have heard a parent say "If you do that one more time" and a few minutes later that same parent says again "If you do that one more time." Even a five year old is smart enough to know that an empty threat is no threat at all, and bad behavior without consequences only reinforces bad behavior.

But discipline doesn't need to mean corporal punishment. Discipline can mean no tv for a week. No computer or Nintendo, and the most dreadful of all punishments to a teenager, take away their cell phone. "OMG". Can you imagine? I am sure in twenty years there will be another study that says that teenagers that are deprived of their cellphone for any length of time suffer temporary emotional withdrawal, permanent social impairment and permanent mental developmental problems.

Good parenting starts and ends with love and communication. Never say "Don't do that" without an explanation of why such behavior is unwanted. But when explanations and admonishments don't work there is still a responsibility to take an active parenting role.

There is an old story of a farmer who sold a rube a mule, telling the rube that the mule was gentle and easy to work with and only needed tender loving care. A week later the rube came back to the farmer, mule in tow and said the mule refused all commands and did no work whatsoever. "Really?", said the farmer thoughtfully. He went to his woodpile, selected a firm branch, and with it smacked the mule right across the rear. The mule brayed in outrage and collapsed to the ground. "Hey!" shouted the rube as the mule slowly staggered back to his feet. "I thought you said the mule needed TLC!" "He does, but first you've got to get his attention."

I believe that with people, as with mules, sometimes you have to get their attention.