Marriage/Parenting: Prompt Action: Discipline

Someone once suggested that the best guide to discipline is just four words long: “Speak once . . . then act.”

My late cousin Morris Venden once described an argumentative child jockeying verbally about having to come indoors. “How come?” “Because it’s about to rain.” “Why can’t I still play?” “Well, you might get a cold.” “No, I won’t.” “I still want you to come in.” “I don’t want to.” “Well, come in anyway.” “How come?” “Because it’s raining harder now, and medicine costs a lot of money, and . . .”

The parent feels like an impotent fool, the child loses respect, the whole neighborhood shakes its collective head, and the transaction brings insecurity to everyone involved.

Another parent calls out the window: “Honey, it’s raining. Please come in.” “How come?” “Because I said so. And do it right now.” End of scene, fade to black. Speak once, then act.

Children need the security of realizing that there is a loving, but strong and firm authority figure in their lives who will graciously but decisively win every confrontation should said battle occur! If your child decides to test you, to cross swords with you – and eventually he will do exactly that – he should lose the encounter in a big way. That’s heaven’s blueprint for a happy home.

James Dobson tells the classic story about “Robert,” a ten-year-old who routinely was insolent with his timid mother. The ongoing war reached its peak during a trip to the dentist. Refusing to get into the chair, the kid trotted out his tried-and-true tactic. “If you make me, I’ll take off all my clothes.” It was a line that had reaped candy payoffs in the supermarket time and again.

The wise old man didn’t bat an eye. “OK, let’s get them off.” Moments later, a stark-naked kid was in the chair getting his cavities filled. The coup de grace came after the rinsing and spitting; when “Robert” demanded his clothes back, the dentist calmly said no. “Tell your mom to come back tomorrow. She can have them then.” A very pink boy and his equally blushing mother had to go out into a crowded waiting room, into the elevator, and out to the parking lot bustling with astonished foot traffic.

So the story goes, in Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives, the mom returned the next day, but not just to get the clothes. “Thank you, doctor,” she confessed. Robert had been blackmailed her with this “I’ll go naked” line for years; one decisive stand was enough to shred his little game.

Dobson goes on to observe that traffic cops don’t endlessly dialogue when they pull us over. They ask for our license and registration . . . and we meekly hand them over. Why? Because the CHP enjoys state-ordained authority!

At home, yours and mine comes from God.