Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Kids Will Challenge You

Category: Positive Parenting


      Derrick walks into the office and immediately slaps my foot which is resting comfortably on my knee.  His mother says "Stop Derrick".  Without hesitation, he immediately slaps it again, this time much harder.  She puts her head down in embarrassment but doesn't stop him or say anything more.  While we begin to talk about his allergies and apparent hyperactivity, he runs to the next room and begins yanking hard on the Venetian blind cord.  He pulls it up and down, opening and closing the blind which we can easily hear.  His mom continues to hold her head down low while the nurse walks into the next room and retrieves him.  Why is Derrick out of control?  Why is he constantly testing his mother's limits?  I believe he is testing her limits because that is a natural thing that all children do.  I believe he is out of control, however, because she has never set any clear limits and enforced them.  Since he was a toddler, he has pretty much gotten away with anything he wanted and he ignored his mom's half-hearted scolding.  Should she set clearer limits and enforce them with appropriate disciplinary measures?  I believe she absolutely should and must if she wants a healthy and secure child. 

      What type discipline methods work best?  I believe "time- outs", loss of privileges, walking out of an office or store with the child and having a discussion with them when they are grabbing things off shelves or obviously showing disrespect to the environment they are in, is appropriate.  When all reasonable methods have been tried and a particularly willful child pushes you even further beyond the limit, I think (as it says in Proverbs) it is OK to place an appropriate swat on the buttocks.  This, however, is usually not as effective as the non-physical methods of discipline and I would reserve it for a last resort. 

      Kids need limits for security and simply to learn the everyday rules of our society.  If they don't learn reasonable limits of behavior and self-control at a young age they will be shunned by friends and teachers when they get to school.  This will lead to a spiral of social failure, frustration, defeatism and a very poor self-esteem.  Considering all these negative consequences, it certainly behooves parents to discipline, which means to teach their children from infancy on.  Emphasize consistency and fairness and be very clear about what limits you are setting.  If you say you are going to do something, you had better do it. 

      All parents love their children and want them to be happy and successful.  Certainly one key ingredient to their child's success is learning respect for authority, good manners and appropriate self-control.  Help to build this in your child no matter how tough and discouraging it may seem at times.  Remember to try the non-physical methods first and only resort to spankings as a last resort.  If you are having lots of trouble with discipline with your child, discuss this with your pediatrician who can give you many helpful tips.  I recommend staying on your knees, as all parents need to do, and ask for God's help as well.  There are numerous good books on      discipline, including DARE TO DISCIPLINE, by Dr. James Dobson and the Bible is certainly loaded with lots of encouraging and wise verses to help us in our parenting chores.