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Why Parents Can't Discipline

Why Parents Can't Discipline

By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.

Some parents have difficulty effectively disciplining their children. Even though they have greater physical and psychological power, there may be several reasons why this may be so:

Since we all tend to raise our children the way we were reared, some parents may not have the skills to effectively discipline their children because of their own deficient upbringings. Without a conscious effort to change, parents often only give their children what they received from their parents.

The parents may have the skills to be effective disciplinarians but be unable to successfully apply those skills because of their own personal problems. A parent who suffers from untreated alcoholism or depression may not be able to consistently follow through with the rewards and punishments which are so critical for good discipline.

The parents may have serious marital problems which make effective discipline difficult, if not impossible, to implement. This is one of the more common reasons why parents are having behavior problems with one or more of their children.

Marital problems contribute to discipline problems in two ways: They prevent the parents from supporting each other in their disciplinary efforts and they create anxiety in children which may be acted out in misbehavior. Ironically, behavior problems in the children can contribute to marital stress, so that each type of problem can exacerbate the other in a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle.

The grandparents may interfere with the legitimate executive authority of the parents. Although it is the function of grandparents to "spoil" their grandchildren in the sense of giving them the unconditional love parents can't always provide, this can go too far. In a continuing conflict with their own adult children, grandparents can undermine the discipline of the parents.

The parents may have the skills, the emotional strength and the interpersonal resources to discipline their children but are still reluctant to do so for a number of reasons. A parent may not make her children mind, for example, because she is still rebelling against what she consider to be her own harsh upbringing. She may assume that to be strict with her children is to be "mean." Or she may want to be friends with them and not risk their displeasure or anger. Or she may feel guilty about having divorced the children's father and not want to further burden them with firm discipline.

Finally, the parents may have the necessary skills, knowledge, resources and attitudes to effectively discipline their children but have borne a child who is temperamentally difficult to discipline. Research has shown that some children - about 10% - are more active and distractible, more intense in their emotional reactions, more negative in their moods and generally harder to control than other children no matter what their parents do or fail to do.


About the Author: J. Bailey Molineux, a psychologist with Adult and Child Counseling, has incorporated many of his articles in a book, Loving Isn't Easy, Isbn 1587410419, sold through bookstores everywhere or available directly from Selfhelpbooks.com. Copyright 2002, J. Bailey Molineux and Selfhelpbooks.com, all rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include authors copyright and website hyperlinks.

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