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“Spare the rod and spoil the child.” This is commonly heard, especially in Christian communities… It’s Biblical, scriptural… The NIV version of Proverbs 13:24 states, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” But what does it mean? I’m not going to debate the issue of whether or not spanking is ok. I think that this is personal decision, and should also be based on what works for your child and your family, within reason of course. What I want to address regarding that passage is overall discipline and how to make discipline work for the good of your family.

With no clear direction, children will grow up with no understanding of right and wrong. If you don’t teach your children how to act, teach them right from wrong, to respect for authority, they will struggle in life, their relationships, their jobs, etc. However… how do you get them to listen, to do what you’ve asked them to do….?

Building a personal relationship with your child will help you know how to discipline him/her affectively, as well as be able to discipline them without damaging your relationship. In my practice, I often hear parents complain “she won’t listen to me,” or “she won’t do anything I say…” “I have to yell and scream and go crazy before he will do anything…” Now, as a Mom, I understand the frustration, and in my house with three teens, I can say that some are quicker than others to do chores, or do what I ask them to do. Each kid has his/he own personality, inner drive, etc. So, I get it!

I would encourage parents to reflect on this.. do you have a positive relationship with your child? Do you praise them when they do what you ask, or do something right? Are you modeling positive behaviors and overall good manners at home with your spouse and children, such as saying please, thank you, excuse me, etc…? Showing respect to everyone in the household, teaches children by example, how to treat others. At times, we tend to treat the ones closest to us, the poorest, and that’s a shame. We should treat everyone in our presence with respect, yes even our kids. If our children feel respected by us, through the modeling that we’ve been doing, chances are they will already know how to treat us with respect, and therefore will want to please us, by doing what is asked. For example, if you have a boss that you respect, are you more likely to do what he asks of you, with a willing heart? Most of us are….

I believe that this has never been more important than now, when all of us are bombarded with many behaviors via internet, social media, television, where sarcasm and defiance of authority is trendy. Therefore, building a healthy relationship with your kiddo is vitally important in an effort to counter those influences.

You can build healthy relationships with your kids, in many ways, but I would suggest – spending time with them! You may think you already spend 24/7 with them, at home, in the car going to practices, games, etc… But how often to you spend time talking about life, laughing together, doing fun things together, not just running from one activity to another. Be available and approachable, so that your kids WANT to be around you. Be fun! Plan things together. These things take time, but if you have a healthy relationship with your kids, it can make parenting so much easier and a whole lot more fun. Then, when you do have to discipline/correct them, they understand that you are doing it because you love them and are teaching them.

Rita Dickson, LPC



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