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Dr. John Rosemond on Disciplining Your Child Successfully

  • Whitney Hopler Contributing Writer
  • Updated Apr 27, 2015
Dr. John Rosemond on Disciplining Your Child Successfully

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of John Rosemond's book, The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline that Really Works (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009).

No issue seems to frustrate parents more than how to discipline their kids.  From trying to tame toddler tantrums to urging teens to clean their rooms, parents often experience more stress than positive results.

If you're struggling to get your kids to behave well, there's hope.  Viewing yourself as a God-given leader for your kids and communicating your authority effectively will change the way you discipline.  As a result, your kids' behavior will change for the better.

Here's how you can discipline your kids successfully:

Don't make excuses for your kids.  Accept the reality that your kids - just like all people - have a sin nature that makes it natural for them to misbehave.  While you love your kids, they're not innocent.  Approach discipline with the understanding that you need to train your kids to develop good attitudes and actions.  Remember that the root word of discipline is "disciple" and realize that disciplining your kids is a vital part of their spiritual growth.  Don't make excuses for them when they behave badly.  Instead, challenge them to learn how to do better, and help and encourage them along the way.  

View discipline as a form of love.  Even though it may seem surprising, your kids actually want you to discipline them.  Discipline makes kids feel secure in the knowledge that their parents care about them enough to help them learn to make wise choices in life.  The most obedient kids are also the happiest kids.  Ask God to help you love your kids unconditionally - even when they misbehave - but also view your efforts to discipline them as an important way of expressing your love to them.

Be short and sweet.  When giving your kids instructions, be direct and use as few words as possible.  That will help your kids understand you most clearly.  You don't need to justify your instructions to your kids.  Explaining your reasons will only give them opportunities to argue with you.  Just let them know what you expect them to do.  If they ask "Why?", simply reply, "Because I said so."

Nip misbehavior in the bud.  Be consistently intolerant of misbehavior in your kids.  Deal with it right away, letting your kids know that you won't accept anything less than proper behavior at all times and in all situations. 

Let your kids solve their own problems.  Rather than agonizing over how to solve your kids' problems yourself, motivate them to seek solutions to their own problems.  Let them feel the pain that their problems are causing in their lives and help them find remedies without rescuing them.  Remember that you can't change your kids' behavior.  You can only bring about circumstances in their lives that will cause them to reconsider their behavior and change it themselves.

Follow through with consequences.  When your kids misbehave, calmly enforce appropriate consequences right away.  Don't threaten, warn, give second chances, or make deals.

Keep going until you reach a cure.  When working on a particular misbehavior you hope to train your kids to overcome, look at the misbehavior as if it were an infection you want to knock out of their lives.  Don't stop your treatment process when the symptoms start to disappear (when your kids' misbehavior starts to diminish and they begin to cooperate with you).  Keep disciplining them until that type of misbehavior has been eradicated and replaced with a visibly better attitude and self-concept.

Bite off only as much as you can chew.  Tackle just one or a few behavior problems at a time so you and your kids don't become overwhelmed.  Start with the problem or problems you think will be easiest to solve and work from there.

Consider using a tickets system.  For kids ages 3 to 13, write down some specific misbehaviors you want to target on some tickets you create and assign each child five tickets per day.  Then, when your kids show those misbehaviors during the day, take one ticket away for each incident.  After all of a child's daily tickets have been used up, give that child a consequence, such as an early bedtime.  For teens who misbehave significantly, take away a prized possession (like a cell phone, computer, car, or video game) for a while until their behavior improves.

End bedtime battles.  Enforce a set bedtime every night.  If your kids get up and make requests of you, dispassionately refuse to do anything but escort them back to their bedrooms and remind them that it's time to sleep.  Reassure your kids that all is well in a calm and authoritative voice.

End food fights.  As soon as your kids graduate from baby food, serve them what everyone else in the family is eating at meals.  Don't urge your kids to eat when they don't want to, and don't bribe them, either.  Simply let them leave the table when they've had enough to eat and save whatever food is left on their plates.  If they say that they're hungry later in the evening before bedtime, give them another chance to eat.  Make it clear that they won't get any new food until they finish the food they've already been served.

Refuse to play the lying game.  If your kids habitually lie to you, calmly tell them that you don't believe them and don't get caught up in a dramatic discussion.  Stopping the drama should stop the behavior because they'll realize they're not getting attention for it anymore.

Tame tantrums.  When one of your kids has a tantrum at home, send the child to his or her room to calm down.  Your child can come out when he or she is ready to apologize to you.  If you have to take your child to the room because he or she refuses to go, have your child stay in the room for the rest of the day and go to bed an hour early.

Finish toilet training quickly.  If one of your kids refuses to use the toilet despite being old enough to do so, get rid of all diapers and training pants and have your child war only thin cotton underpants and a t-shirt.  Then have your child drink water often and instruct them to go to the bathroom whenever necessary.  If your child has any accidents, send him or her to his room for the rest of the day and allow him or her to come out only to use the bathroom.

October 16, 2009

Adapted from The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline that Really Works, copyright 2009 by John Rosemond.  Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn.,      

John Rosemond, a family psychologist, has on average given more than 200 talks to parent and professional audiences each year. His weekly syndicated newspaper column appears in more than 200 newspapers and major dailies reaching an estimated 20 million readers every week.  Author of 13 previous books on parenting and family issues, for 10 years John was the featured parenting columnist for Better Homes and Gardens and wrote the family counselor column for the United Airlines magazine Hemispheres. John and his wife Willie have been married for 41 years. They have two adult children and seven grandchildren.