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Apparently Discipline and Authority is a New Parenting Trend
There's some pretty stupid parenting trends going on right now, according to ivillage (although they don't acknowledge they're stupid). Taking the cake: toddlers in high heels. Please. That's not a "parenting trend", that's a "stupidity trend". Or perhaps a "maybe I should call Children's Services trend". The article comes complete with a picture of Suri Cruise teetering in high heeled sandals. Well, she is 3, after all. (Reminds me of Miley Cyrus' 9-year-old sister who has a line of children's lingerie. Please. Someone really should call Children's Services).

But one trend that caught my eye I thought was pretty smart. I've mentioned many times on this blog that I don't have a TV. But when we go to hotels, I like watching a lot of the lifestyle shows, and I saw a few episodes of the Dog Whisperer by Cesar Millan. Basically, the guy trains dogs by showing the dogs that he is in charge, and then by understanding what their motivations and issues are. Once you've figured that out, everything else is a piece of cake.

On each show, he takes some dog that is completely out of control, and often violent, and shows how you can calm them down quite easily when you show the dog that you are the boss. It turns out that dogs often act violently to make up for a deficiency they sense in their master. If the master isn't taking control of the situation, then it must mean that they want the dog to. So the dog tries hard to protect the master, to deal with all outside threats, and to be quite mean.

Apparently a lot of parents started watching this show and thought that it had implications for the way we parent. Maybe kids act up when they don't feel that you are in control. The article says:

Just like your Labrador retriever, kids are comforted by structure and knowing you’re in charge, Hicks says. And like Fido, they’re paying less attention to your words than to your attitude. “Ninety percent of what you communicate to your kids is nonverbal,” Hicks says.

So, when you're telling them no or making a request, “keep your energy calm and assertive,” she says, using Millan’s watchwords, “never angry or threatening.” As Hicks explains in her parenting advice blog, children gain security and learn respect from your confidence, which translates into better behavior.
Parents need confidence. I wish sometimes that I could just give parents a confidence pill, so that they would know that they have the power, authority, and God-given right to steer their children in the right direction. Children shouldn't be allowed to choose most things for themselves, because they don't have the wisdom or the life experience to make those decisions. Children shouldn't be allowed to do whatever they want, because they don't have the capacity to understand what is in their best interests.

And when children feel as if you are not confident as a parent, it creates a void in their lives. They start to feel scared. Who is going to teach me about life? Who is going to teach me how to behave? And so they start testing the limits by acting just like those out of control dogs--barking, snarling, attacking. They yell, they fight, they run around like a Tasmanian devil because inside they want someone to stop them. They want someone to tell them they are not in control, nor do they have to be.

Sometimes we're in denial, and think our kids are great, and the problem is with everybody else. I know many parents who say their children behave fine at home, but as soon as they're in school, they can't handle things and get in trouble. Some of this honestly is from ADD; parents have learned how to steer the kids in positive directions and adjust, and the school hasn't.

But in other cases it's because at home there really isn't any discipline or any boundaries. And when there aren't boundaries, the kids aren't breaking any rules, so there's never any yelling or fighting. The kids eat dinner in front of the television, fall asleep wherever they happen to lie, never put their toys away, and leave messes everywhere, but they don't get in trouble because the parents assume this is the way things are supposed to be.

That same child gets to school where there is structure and they can't handle it. So this child that the parent has no real beef with is now considered a discipline problem. How did this happen? Because the parents set no limits, so there are no limits to contravene.

I have known parents, even within the church, who are raising kids who are horrible and don't even seem to know it. So I want to give you a reality check on what parents should have in place. This doesn't mean you always do these things (our kids had bedtimes, for instance, but we'd let them stay up late occasionally), but in general, these things should be in force in your home:

1. Kids should have a consistent bedtime. They should go to bed, on their own, in their own rooms at bedtime. Usually this means that you have bedtime routines that could involve reading them stories, giving baths, and saying prayers. By age 13 or 14, you may decide not to enforce a strict bedtime, but it's a good idea to have your kids be in their rooms at a certain time, anyway, just to give you more privacy as parents!

2. Kids should never be allowed to talk back to their parents or call them names. If a child calls you names, this is not something to laugh at. This is serious.

3. Kids should be required to put their own toys away and pick up after themselves. By age 2, they can help you put toys in a toybox. By age 5 or 6, they can start to make their own beds.

4. Children should sit at a table during mealtimes and should eat what is on their plate. Parents, in general, should not be preparing a separate meal for children once they reach 3, because they should be eating what you eat (when making tacos, I used to take out ground beef before I added the spice to give to the girls, but in general they ate what we made, even if they didn't like it).

5. Children, in general, should understand the difference between being in public and being at home. By age 4, they should be able to act properly in public, within limits. If a child throws a temper tantrum, they should be reprimanded and dealt with appropriately.

Naturally these are things that will be difficult. Getting my girls to eat what I cooked was always a challenge when they were young. I'm not saying, then, that these things will be easy. They should at least, however, be on your radar screen. Move towards these goals, even if you're not completely attaining them. At least know that you should be aiming there. I know some parents who do not even seem to be aiming there, assuming that it is impossible.

It's not. Kids need to feel that you are confident in your parenting and your discipline, and that you know what is expected. If you don't know, how will they know? So if your children honestly aren't listening, and don't do any of these things, ask for help. It means that you are missing out on some important things in parenting. I'm not trying to be harsh; it's just that if you understand it, you can work to correct it, and your homelife will be so much better.

So if you have any specific questions on how to reach any of these things, fire them my way! I'd love to try to help! And in the meantime, remember: you are the parent. You have more power than you realize. Your child wants to listen to you. Don't be afraid to set limits!


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At 7:03 AM , Anonymous Sarah (GenMom) said…

Great post. I totally agree!


At 7:56 AM , Blogger Llama Momma said…



At 8:09 AM , Blogger Antique Mommy said…

It is a huge disservice to your child to allow them to speak to you disrespectfully or to disrespect your authority. There are many different parenting approaches to managing/teaching that, however, failing to do so will make life hard for everyone, but especially the child. /highhorse ;p


At 8:17 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Antique Mommy--

I think that's the key: recognizing that we are doing our children a DISSERVICE if we don't teach them respect. We're not being nice to them. We're not letting them have fun. Ultimately, we're trapping them in a life where they won't be able to work hard, form good relationships, or really enjoy life, because they think they are the centre of the universe!


At 9:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Bless your heart!!!(and I mean that in the true way not the sarcastic way) Oh MY GOODNESS. I found your advertising video on Tangle after I was given a very rude comment about being a SAHM. I completely agree with this blog! It was like you took the words out of my head and formed them to make complete sense. This is the way I was raised. My mother did not do the 'new age' parenting. I am SO beyond thankful that I was given set rules. I cannot thank you enough. I have suggested your blog to everyone on facebook. Thank you.
-Allissa B.


At 10:03 AM , Blogger Sheri said…

Noah Cyrus is not designing a lingerie line:


At 11:24 AM , Blogger Shana said…

This is so true! People think I am so strict but it isn't that. It is the fact that children should listen to and respect their elders. They should behave appropriately in public, in church and at home. My two year old behaves better than my 7 year old nephew. That is sad. My son will try to open doors for women because my husband has taught him this since he started walking and they open the door for me everywhere we go. People just don't make their kids behave anymore because they are afraid of them having low self esteem but you should esteem yourself anyway. That means you hold yourself above others. A great parenting book is a Christian based book called Parenting by the Book (meaning the Bible). Great book. Although I do need to work on getting my son in his own bed. he has been in ours since he was born because of silent reflux but he has to go to his own room now so I can have my hubby back.


At 3:35 PM , Anonymous Heather Laurie said…

I 100% agree! Parents are unsure of themselves mostly because the previous generation taught from a lax do what feels good stand point. That leaves my generation knowing there is something more but many are unable to grasp it. Thank you for standing up for parental authority, responsibility and more peaceful families!
God bless
Heather Laurie


At 4:03 PM , Blogger Tessa said…

I love what you say about bedtimes. There should be a routine and even if they don't go to sleep at the same time every night, they can have quiet time in their room. *let's face it, you can't force a child to sleep!)

That being said, my son goes to bed at the same time we do. He's 2, he goes to bed at 11ish. But he knows that we brush our teeth, then feed the cats, then put on jammies and read devotions. He doesn't always fall asleep right away but he's already learned that once the light goes out it's time to be quiet (verbally and physically).
As for backtalk... he doesn't talk yet. But he does hit sometimes. He's quickly learning that if he can't learn to control his hands, mama will help him (i.e. i hold his hands still and explain that hitting isn't nice etc).

I have a nephew who's 5 and certainly not the best behaved child on the block. I can totally relate Shana! But one thing I've learned about that is that I can help my nephew understand too. Actually he started punching my husband one time and my husband grabbed his hands and asked "why are you punching me?" his reply "I want you to play with me"
My husband made him ask politely. It's sad that sometimes we have to do the parenting for others we know!


At 4:10 PM , Blogger Sheila said…


I'm with you on the late bedtimes. My girls, when they were young, simply didn't need sleep. My youngest slept 9 1/2 hours a day--over the entire 24 hour period! She took 2 one hour naps and then slept for 7 1/2 hours a night. As a baby. When you're supposed to sleep for 13 hours!

But she wasn't grumpy. She just didn't need sleep. So she went to sleep when we did just so that I could get enough sleep. It was really hard back then.

Ironically, since hitting puberty last year she has finally started really sleeping, and now sleeps about 10 hours a night. But it's a first for her, and it was hard when she was little!


At 4:31 PM , Blogger Megan said…

My brain always explodes when I hear a parent say "my child won't let me...". Really??? And how are they stopping you, a capable adult?

I grew up training horses, and honestly it seemed obvious to me to apply many of the same principles to raising our daughter (and soon-to-arrive son). With a horse, you have to act like you EXPECT it to do what you're asking of it. Same with a child. We expect her to eat with us, to come when we ask her to, and to go to bed at 7:30 in her own room -- so she does. But I've also discovered that requiring her to use certain phrases completely changes her attitude when she has toddler tantrums. "Please" changes a whine into a sweet request, and "Yes ma'am" or "Yes sir" when she tries to tell us "NO" calms her down in a heartbeat. It surprises and pleases me every time.


At 1:44 AM , Blogger Christi said…

thanks for this post! i am in the education field, so i certainly appreciate your point about parents not having any structure at home and wondering why their children do not succeed in a structured school environment.


At 1:59 PM , Blogger Mama said…

I agree with some of what you say here but I don't agree that Cesar Milan should be followed for parenting advice. Cesar trains dogs. We are raising people.

The latest neuroscience research supports a new way of relating to children based on what we now know about how the brain grows and how children learn.

Parenting is not something that you do to a child - like friendship or marriage - it is a relationship that evolves over time.

Yes, as the parent you have the life experience to guide your children but you will never fully control them - and if they do allow themselves to be controlled for some time - resentment is likely to follow as are more serious adolescent behaviors.

Behavioral change happens in the context of relationship - through interaction and guidance. Discipline through force, coercion, punishment and fear only promotes more stress and fear in a child's brain. If a child is fearing consequences - his brain retreats to survival mode (releasing stress hormones) - and he makes choices based on self-preservation and keeping the relationship with Mom or Dad in tact - not because of the fear of the consequence.

A child being who modifies his behavior when faced with the fear of isolation or love withdrawal (time-out) - is most surely not learning any "lessons" in compassion, safety, family values or social mores but more reacting to a threat. Fear is not how children build relationships with their care-givers

Parents actually grow a child's brain through attuned, caring responses - not through demands. Demanding disempowers kids - they do have the right to make choices - and there a a lot of choice that they can make on their own. You provide the foundation and the structure - but to direct children in all areas actually weakens their ability to be independent and to trust their inner guidance as they grow older. Flexibility, not unbending rules or authoritarian control is best for optimal development.

Underlying principle is that - Behavior = communication - a strategy to meet a basic human need.

Does it make sense then, to change the communication? Through identifying needs, acknowledging feelings and then guiding our children to make better choices - we connect the neural cells that will develop to form pathways to higher brain function. This can't be done during times of disregulation or stress.

Through the understanding of the phases of child development and a process of nonviolent communication - you can achieve cooperation and a joyful family experience. (I swear) - Visit my site TEACH through Love (linked from my blog/name) if you'd like more info!


At 11:36 PM , Blogger Karen (Canadian Soldier's Wife) said…

Yes, yes, yes!! Great post, thanks for sharing :)

(Although I do adore Suri's shoes... but for me, NOT for a three-year-old!)

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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