A Child's Behavior Has Everything To Do With Parents

| by Suzanne Venker
Disciplining Children

Last week I was asked to submit a piece for an Opposing Views debate about "the best way to discipline a child." If you click on "Articles" on my website, you can find the link to Opposing Views.

The reason the editor asked me to submit a piece for this debate (aside from the fact that I've written for them before) is because he subscribes to my blog and had read the post entitled "The Self-Esteem Hoax." Apparently the experts he used for the debate on discipline all promote the same theory -- which I like to call "loosy goosy parenting." Their suggestions include: "Use Positive Discipline," "Avoid Punishment," and "Never Smack a Child."

I don't disagree with everything these experts suggest, but a closer reading tells you more about their parenting philosophy -- which involves the standard, modern-day approach to discipline I wrote about in The Self-Esteem Hoax. So I wrote a rebuttal to their argument.

Coincidentally, the day after I submitted my piece to Opposing Views, Fox News interviewed an author named Dr. Kevin Leman, whose book, Have a New Kid by Friday, was just released. The gist of his book is the same as my argument against the other three "experts" on Opposing Views. Here are some of his comments:

1) "It all comes down to who is really in charge of your family. Is it you or your child?"

2) "Kids do what they do because they've gotten away with it!"

3) "Today's parents don't act like parents. They are so concerned about being their child's friend, about not wounding their child's psyche, about making sure their child is happy and successful, that they fail in their most important role: to be a parent."

4) "Your child's behavior has everything to do with you."

Ouch. That last one is a hard one to swallow, but it's also one of the reasons the topic of parenting has become taboo. We live in a culture in which people are free to eschew responsibility, which has dramatically altered the way people parent. When children repeatedly misbehave or have bad manners, out of embarrassment parents say, "Oh, that's just the way Johnny is," as if the child's behavior has nothing to do with them. A child's behavior -- not his personality, but his behavior -- has everything to do with his parents, just as a student's behavior in class has everything to do with his teacher.

Parents' inability to discipline children effectively is a pervasive problem in our society. It's true the task requires a certain kind of personality, but those whose personalities aren't naturally suited for it could easily learn the techniques. The problem is that society works against these folks by encouraging a permissive approach to parenting. This is why books like Dr. Leman's are sorely needed; it's imperative that parents who feel inept in this area seek help for how to turn around a child with behavior issues.

If they don't do this while their children are still young, the teenage years will be hell. And the adult version of a child who's always called the shots isn't pretty either.


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