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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Why A Financial Journalist Should Resist Giving Parenting Advice

Several years ago The Wall Street Journal published an article by a financial columnist on how to discipline children, using his experience with his teenage son as an example.

Basically, his advice was to take away something which the child likes but not something which would impact their future (like the golf lesson for a budding pro golfer). The same advice--to punish the bad deed--is that which generations of parents have followed to their family's later regret.

I once gave a talk to a 4H leadership conference. It was my most popular workshop and entitled, "Discipline Without Damage: How to Discipline Your Child Without Harming Their Emotional Development."

To summarize my lecture: children usually do what their parents request for they want to become adults. If they rebel, it is for some good (though possibly unconscious) reason, or because they are unable to carry out their parent's demand (which we will assume is a reasonable one). Then the best course for the parent is to say, "I'm really disappointed in you." This statement is the worst possible punishment for nothing is more painful to a child than the threat of losing their parent's love.

I closed my lecture with the advice that, whenever possible, a parent should fulfill all of their child's (reasonable) requests (as, by providing a needed ride to a friend's house) in order to cement the bond between parent and child.

At the end of my workshop several young boys came up to get copies of my hand-out sheets for their parents.

Behavior modification methods are effective with dogs but not with cats or with people of at least average intelligence. It works for those of below average intelligence because it so simplifies their environment that they can function better.

So, to paraphrase an ancient proverb, perhaps experts should stick to their knitting. Or is The Wall Street Journal changing its target audience?

Copyright (c) 2011, 2015 by Stanley Goldstein. All rights reserved.
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