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February 22, 2014

Principals of parent leadership

NORMAN — In my most popular presentation — “Parenting with Love and Leadership” — I reveal the secret to proper, effective discipline: to wit, acting like a superior being.

Today’s parents have been seduced by behavior modification theory into believing that effective discipline is all about the proper (consistent) use of the proper consequences. In other words, they believe that effective discipline is a matter of manipulating reward and punishment. Consequences are sometimes necessary, but over-relying on them is certain to backfire. Many parents have already discovered that; they simply don’t realize what it is they’ve discovered.

Think about it: The teacher who always has the fewest discipline problems, who is regarded by her peers as the best disciplinarian in the school, is not controlling her class by using behavior-modification-based classroom management strategies. What is she doing? She’s simply acting like a superior being. In a calm, composed manner, she projects an overarching confidence in the legitimacy of her authority. A child’s natural response to this is obedience.

The question then becomes “How does one act like a superior being?” The answer: act like you know what you’re doing, that you rather enjoy doing it, and that it matters not to you whether your kids (or students) do or do not approve of your decisions. You love them, and/or you know what is best for them, and that’s all that matters.

After a recent talk, a fellow told me he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of acting superior to his kids. He said it reminded him of his dad, who disciplined through threat, anger, and repeated spankings.

“Your father was frustrated, tense, angry, and wanted you to behave for his benefit, for his convenience,” I replied. “I thought I made clear that’s not at all what I’m talking about. The parent who successfully acts like a superior being is calm, composed, unflappable, and wants his kids to behave for their benefit.”

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