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Lesson 5
Thirteen Tips

Before beginning to explore the three sets of tools, let us summarize our progress to this point by exploring thirteen tips for managing the challenges of discipline.
checkThe more discipline tools you have the more effective you can be.
Flexibility is a requirement for success. Parents with limited options will be frustrated more frequently when their actions are ineffective. Nothing works; what else can I do? is a common complaint. When resources are exhausted, the potential for violence and abuse increases.
checkUse the right combination of tools at the right time.
Every problem may require a different discipline tool or combination of tools. What may work in one situation may not be effective in another. Parents have to be flexible as they choose options from their discipline toolbox. They may have to experiment to find a combination that is effective with a particular child and situation.
checkCultivate a quiet mind.
Informed discipline decisions depend on parents being fully aware of the child, themselves, and the problem situation. To begin, focus with a quiet, open mind on what is really happening. Then begin the work of thinking and acting.
checkThere is no single right answer.
There are no clever gurus out there with a magic formula for success. Raising a child is hard work, combining love with firmness, success with reversal, and thought with action. The best solutions are are determined by individual parents who know and love their children. Teachers, therapists, guidance counselors, writers, and social workers can provide support and serve as cheerleaders. The parents have to be willing to think, struggle and love. Wisdom is created out of the struggle to find a way to exercise authority as an expression of love.
checkMaking choices as a parent is an act of faith.
To have faith as a parent means to believe that one's efforts will make a difference over time. It means accepting the challenges that occur at every stage of development as children grow older. Just as a parent begins to feel comfortable guiding a toddler, that child has become a preschooler who is beginning to explore the world more widely. A whole new set of difficulties suddenly appear. Another parent may wonder how she will ever cope with the affectionate grade schooler who has become a defiant, sullen teenager. Life is a series of changes in which something familiar and predictable is left behind for something new and risky. The most parents can expect of themselves is to make the best choice they can at any given time. They must have faith that their love and guidance, as imperfect as they may be, will nurture another human being.
checkRelationships are like emotional bank accounts.
Everything parents do that is positive and uplifting is a deposit in the account. A smile, a good word, a gentle hug add to the positive side of the ledger. Everything parents do to confront, to criticize, or to punish are withdrawals from that account. Some withdrawals and some deposits are greater than others. Some withdrawals are inevitable, but to avoid a bankruptcy in the relationship, deposits must exceed withdrawals.
checkStand for something.
Parents who use responsive discipline know what they hope to accomplish with their children. They avoid wasting their energy over low-priority issues. Their behavior clearly communicates the values or principles that guide their lives. They act with purpose.

Wisdom is created out of the struggle
to find a way to exercise authority
as an expression of love.

checkMight is not right.
Strength and power are associated with confidence, self-respect, and love, not brute force. There is a difference between authority figures and bullies. Punishment should be used infrequently and only when necessary after prevention and guidance efforts have failed. Self-esteem, self-control and a healthy conscience cannot be nurtured through fear and intimidation.
checkBeing right is more important than being liked.
Parents want their children's affection. Remaining firm with an important decision despite a child's anger can be difficult. I hate you, mother! You [obscenity] father! can be like daggers thrust into a loving parent's heart. But parents cannot wilt before the heat of their children's anger. They must stand firm where firmness is necessary. Parents who act in good faith, in the best interests of their children, will ultimately earn the love they deserve.
checkNo parent is a prisoner of the past.
Parents can make their own choices regardless of the treatment they received as children. Making a break with the past, to stop a cycle of abuse and neglect, can be a heart- wrenching challenge. Parents with painful pasts are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of their parents. Making a deliberate choice from alternatives is the key to breaking from the past. There is power in having options.
checkLook ahead to look back.
Before they respond to their children's misbehavior, parents should imagine the future. Will they regret the course of action they plan to take? Will they be proud of what they have done? Can they later look their adult child in the eyes with confidence? When their children grow up, how will they describe their parents' discipline style to their friends?
checkEvery mistake is a lesson and an opportunity.
Discipline mistakes tell parents what does not work and what must be changed. Mistakes also mark a beginning point for renewal, a chance to break with the past. Excellence does not mean perfection.
checkNever, ever, ever give up.
Raising a child requires immense faith and patience. Quick results are rarely achieved. The most important goals take a long time to achieve. Setbacks and mistakes do not mean failure.

[reflection]Thinking about the Tips

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Contact us/Help Revised: February 12 , 2003

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