Leadership in Parenting: Discipline
This series is about viewing parenting from the perspective of leadership and developing future leaders. Being a parent is the most basic—and vital—of all leadership roles, though it’s rarely thought of that way. Parenting is the single most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I wish someone would have oriented me to this perspective before I became a father. It would have helped me avoid being in reaction (or sometimes survival) mode and given me more vision on what I was doing and how I was doing it. I hope parents find it helpful.
Kids push you right to the edge of your patience cliff—and then they push you off. Not to be overly simplistic, but parents control almost every aspect of their kids’ lives from the day they’re born. Kids, being individual, self-determined humans, push back. The result is conflict and a battle of wills, a confrontation conveniently framed with the perspective that kids warrant punishment for disobeying a parent’s direction.
Parents control almost every aspect of their kids’ lives from the day they’re born. Kids, being individual humans with a sense of self-determination, push back.
Buth this can be a slippery slope. It puts you in an adversarial role, not just an authoritative one. It positions you as a combatant, rather than a trusted, benevolent authority.
“And Your Point Is…?”
Parental discipline shouldn’t be viewed as punishment. It should be viewed as training, learning and development.
It positions you as a combatant, rather than a trusted, benevolent authority.
It’s right for kids to obey their parents. But I believe the root issue is that discipline helps young humans with no calibrated moral compass become adults with a functioning conscience, an ability to self-manage and self-order so they can thrive in a chaotic and anarchistic world.
Children aren’t born with these, they must be cultivated. Meaning: Disobedience is not a personal attack on you (though it may appear to be). Kids just aren’t yet convinced they should adopt your expected behavior; they’re still trying to figure it out.
A properly-constructed discipline process clarifies that children aren’t just disobeying, they’re choosing against a principle, a law, an accepted norm or a value. From eating your peas before having cake to not mixing alcohol with cars—and everything in between—the reasons for discipline are much bigger than either parents or children.
A properly-constructed discipline process clarifies that children aren’t just disobeying you, they’re choosing against a principle, a law, an accepted norm or a value.
The Big Picture
Leadership is often (wrongly, in my opinion) thought of as control, dominance, being the boss or exerting your will on others. In this approach, you have to be the biggest, baddest, smartest, most productive, etc. in order to lead well.
It’s sometimes said that the best leaders don’t just get things done, they develop other leaders that get things done. Leaders whose top priority is compliance and control will struggle to develop quality leaders from those who follow. In the same way, parents whose perspective is that their kids do what they’re told will only be frustrated.
Remember: Ultimately, kids make their own decisions—as we all do. You can’t control them, but you can lovingly, patiently and consistently influence them.
Your Next Step
How can you adjust your discipline so it helps them learn to make the right, best decisions?