Parenting Mistake #1: Tolerate Disobedience

We were at the swimming club today and I witnessed some bad parenting.  The mother told her 5-year old daughter, "Let's go to the potty before you get back in the pool."

"No. I don't want to," the little girl replied, as she picked up a noodle and headed for the water.

The mother tried again, this time with a more serious tone to her voice.  "Come on.  Let's go to the potty before you get back in."  But her daughter only picked up her pace and quickly jumped in the pool.

The battle continued.  The mother wasn't ready to concede defeat quite yet.  She repeated the order several times for her daughter to get out of the pool, but the little girl only became more defiant.  How many times would she have to say it for her mother to get the message?  "No!  No!  No!"

Finally the mother remembered who the boss of the family was and backed off.  She said, "Alright, but you better tell me when you need to go to the potty."

The little girl then gloated in her victory with a some bratty humor.  "I need to go potty.  I need to go potty."  Of course she didn't need to potty.  She was just being a punk.

So, where do I begin?  Plain and simple, this is just really bad parenting.  Unfortunately it is all too common.  I've seen it so often.  Where did the parent go wrong?  She allowed the little girl to say "No" once.  That should NEVER be allowed.  There is no more clear display of defiance and disrespect than when a child tells the parent "No."  There is no room for tolerance there.  There is no room for second chances.  The parent's command was clearly understood.  And the response was outright disobedience.  In that very moment, the mother should have applied some form of painful punishment.  She had options.  She could have taken her daughter to the car, and if the windows are tinted enough, she could have spanked her right then and there.  Or, she could have immediately left and spanked her daughter at home.  Or, if neither of those options were possible, at the very least she could have sent her daughter to sit in time out for about five minutes.  The best option:  Immediate corporal punishment.  There are rare options when corporal punishment is necessary.  Blatant disobedience is one of them.

A few things for parents to remember about discipline:

  1. Your response to your child's bad behavior is teaching them a lesson, whether you like it or not.  If you let her get away with disrespect and disobedience, then you have taught her that she doesn't have to honor her parents; defiance is permissible.  You will see her act out in the same way or worse again.  But if you immediately respond with painful punishment, you are teaching her that she must honor her parents.  Next time she will think twice about being defiant.
  2. When you don't discipline your child for bad behavior, you are disobeying God.  The Bible repeatedly commands parents to discipline their children.  This includes teaching, rebuking, and corporal punishment.
  3. If you refuse to use corporal punishment, you are disobeying God.  The Bible also repeatedly commands parents to utilize corporal punishment to train up your child (Proverbs 13:24).  By refusing to use corporal punishment, you are neglecting the best method of discipline for defiance, and you are disobeying God.  Neglecting corporal punishment may make you feel kind and loving, but it's not.  You are only creating a monster.
  4. The earlier you start, the easier it gets.  How soon do you begin punishing defiance?  As soon as they can comprehend your orders.  And that's much earlier than most parents think.  Training begins in the first year of a child's life -- as soon as they can comprehend what you mean when you say "No" as they are reaching for something that is off-limits (around 8 months).  They may not be ready for the belt or the spoon, but a pinch with just the right amount of pressure will do the trick.  If you start early, it won't be a problem when your child is five. 


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