Living with Children: One discipline problem at a time
By John Rosemond
Published: Monday, April 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
One of the reasons — it's probably in the top three reasons, in fact — that parents fail at solving discipline problems is they try to solve too many at once. In so doing, they scatter their disciplinary energy too thinly and end up solving none. The only thing they accomplish is getting more frustrated and more convinced that there is something about their child that renders discipline ineffective — a gene perhaps, inherited from the father (who else?), that causes a biochemical imbalance.
If a corporation manufactures 10 products that are all losing money, its managers do not try to rehabilitate all 10 products at once. Instead, they focus their marketing energy and dollars on one. They are fairly certain that the renewed success of that one item will have a positive effect on the other nine. And they're right! Shortly after bingobangos begin showing a profit, whatchamas and humperdoos begin operating in the black, as well. Pretty soon, all 10 products are doing well. Mind you, if management had tried to jump-start all 10 at once, the corporation would have gone bankrupt.
And so it is when dealing with discipline problems. No matter how many there are, pick one — it doesn't really matter which one — and deal with it in a very organized way. When you have solved that one problem, you will almost surely notice that one or two other problems have spontaneously vanished. I call it “disciplinary math.” If you start with 10 discipline problems — tantrums, disobedience, disrespect, teasing the dog, leaving clothes all over the house and so on — and you solve one, you are likely to find that you only have seven problems left. Solve one of those and you have only four left. Four problems minus one is one and that goes the way of the other nine as soon as your child sees you focusing on it. During this process, which may take several months from start to finish (time well spent), just muddle through the problems you haven't yet targeted. Their day will come.
I once consulted with a couple whose early-elementary-age son was giving them fits. In addition to speaking disrespectfully, ignoring instructions and interrupting conversations, he was not getting ready for school on time in the morning. The parents took turns haranguing, hectoring and hassling until he was finally ready to leave the house. Because their day almost always got off on the wrong foot, they were eager to solve that problem. Instead, I helped them develop an organized approach to the disrespectful statements that flew out of his mouth whenever things didn't go his way.
A few weeks later, the parents told me that the disrespect had all but completely stopped. Oh, and by the way, their son was getting ready to leave for school in the morning without being harangued and so on. And other problems were showing improvement as well!
“Disciplinary math” may defy the rules of arithmetic, but it works!
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Analysis: Kesler remains on Penguins’ radar as Shero looks bring back ‘Big 3’ formula
- ‘Un-American’? That’s Harry Reid, the Senate’s lowly smear artist
- Starkey: Steelers know when to say goodbye
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- Ex-Colts executive Polian: Approach free agency with caution
- With so many needs, Steelers can ill afford to miss in draft
- Penguins GM Shero’s deadline deals: Addition by subtraction
- Air force chief: Malaysia jet may have turned back
- Expats renounce citizenship over U.S. tax hassles
- SUV flips onto its side on Parkway East
- Steelers defense doesn’t make the grade in 2013 review