Dear L.A. Teacher
I have a teenage son who really needs hands on discipline. His father died last year and his uncle keeps offering to be his father figure and take charge of his discipline. I can’t control my son, as I have never laid a hand on him. Should I let his uncle punish the boy?
Dear Confused Mom,
I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. However, turning discipline over to his uncle is not a good idea. Also, having a history of never hitting your child is a huge plus.
Growing up, I was pretty much ignored by my father. He was there for me, yes, but only in body. He rarely talked to me, and when he did it was to bark orders. However, my Uncle Charlie made himself available to listen. And that’s what your son needs, someone willing to listen to his problems without judgment.
Disciplining a young child is a lot different than chastening a teen. When you are upset with your teen, attack the behavior, not the child. As I said earlier, not having a history of hitting your child is a plus. Here's why: Physical discipline teaches fear and hate. Positive discipline develops respectful relationships.
Here’s an example from when my youngest daughter was a teen. She constantly left her dirty socks on the coffee table. I said, “I feel angry when I ask you to remove your socks from the table and you ignore me.” Doesn’t that sound better than, “You are an inconsiderate stupid little girl for not removing those damn socks!” The first statement expresses my feelings about the behavior; the second attacks the intelligence of my child. Yes, she needed constant reminders, but eventually the behavior was extinguished.
Pick the behavior you’d like to eliminate, one at a time. Once you’ve worked one problem through, choose another. Don’t turn yourself into an ogre screaming at every turn. Believe me, your child will appreciate your understanding more than you’ll ever know.
Finally, pick a time everyday you sit down with your son to talk. I strongly suggest dinnertime. Ask him about his day and tell him about yours. If you lead with honesty and sincerity, he’ll follow your example.