NORMAN — Q: My 5-year-old son is an only child whom I homeschool. He talks back, argues and generally wears me down. I need help getting to him to realize that no is no, that I mean what I say. I know I’m the problem. Help.
A: Better that you have come to grips now with the fact that you are the problem than when he’s much older and these difficulties have acquired much more momentum. I do not recommend homeschooling when the child in question is disobedient, disrespectful and generally difficult to “control.”
Pre-existing discipline problems are counterproductive to an effective homeschool environment. Discipline problems should be solved before homeschooling is attempted. So the first recommendation I’m going to tender for your consideration is that you send your son to “regular” school until you get his behavior under control.
Today’s parents believe discipline is a technology involving the manipulation of reward and punishment. They believe discipline is accomplished through the proper use of consequences. The fact is that whereas consequences are sometimes needed, the proper discipline of a child is primarily a matter of employing authoritative speech.
Taking one example, do not “get down to your child’s level” when you speak to him or her. In so doing, you look like you are pleading. Stand upright. When I speak on proper discipline, I emphasize the need for parents to “act like superior beings.” Contrary to the parent-child egalitarianism parenting “experts” have promoted for more than a generation, adults are superior to children.
Learn to employ what I call “leadership speech” when giving instructions and communicating decisions. Use the fewest words possible, come straight to the point and do not give explanations.
Wrong way: (The parent is scrunched down, hands on knees) “Honey, it would really help Mommy if you’d pick up the toys in the living room and put them away so my friend, Susan, and I can use that room to talk and have coffee in without a lot of distractions. Will you do that for Mommy, OK?”