In his book Have A New Kid By Friday: How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior, & Character in 5 Days, Dr. Kevin Leman talks about the ABCs of discipline: attitude, behavior, and character (Leman, 2012). The surprising twist is that Leman is not just talking about the ABCs of children, but even more importantly, those of the parents. Leman reminds us that children learn the ABCs from what is modeled to them, so parents must first change themselves before they can successfully change their child. He gives three strategies to help parents in effective discipline.
Leman calls the first strategy reality discipline: let reality be the teacher. Too many times parents rescue children from the consequences of their behavior and miss a prime teaching opportunity. This tool has countless applications for children of various ages and the wise parent will take advantage of it. A second valuable strategy is to respond rather than to react. Leman reminds parents that it is all in the approach. We need to be careful to respond to our children: no yelling, screaming, disrespect or impatience. Leman calls his third strategy for parents, “B doesn’t happen until A is completed” (Leman, 2012, p. 50). The value of this technique is obvious. We have all experienced the motivation to complete a task when we are looking forward to something at its completion. Children are no different.
Leman gives one other tool for effective discipline worth mentioning. It is a very simple, yet profound tool when put into the hands of consistent parents. It is the principle of “Say it once, turn your back, and walk away” (Leman, 2012, p.33). If you want your children to take you seriously, don’t keep repeating yourself. According to Leman, this only tells your children you don’t think they are smart enough to get it the first time. By saying things once and not nagging your children, you are showing respect for them and at the same time you are showing them in a very practical way that you fully expect them to obey.
Here at The Refuge Center for Counseling, we are committed to supporting parents as they explore and practice practical ways to establish good discipline in their homes.
Leman, K. (2012). Have a new kid by Friday: How to change your child’s attitude, behavior & character in 5 days. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.