10 False Assumptions of Parenting


In just about all areas of life-and especially in our relationships-we humans tend to make lots of assumptions.  Whether it is in our marriage relationship, our friendship and peer relationships, in our relationships at work with superiors or subordinates, our natural inclination is to make assumptions about how to respond physically and emotionally to what we hear and see in the multitude of life situations we find ourselves.

Assumptions we make may be about what others want or expect from us, what is proper in terms of our behaviors in various circumstances, or what the other person means or intends by a comment made.

Assuming is not all bad.  In fact it is just about inevitable that we will make assumptions and draw conclusions about what is going on around us all day long.  Assuming even serves us well when we are correct. The problem arises when our assumptions are false but we nonetheless allow them to guide and influence how we conduct ourselves as if they were correct.

In short, assumptions that are true, correct and accurate, serve us well; those that are inaccurate and false, can create a whole slew of various and sundry difficulties for us.

As parents, a lot of what guides and dictates how we conduct ourselves, how we interact and respond to our kids, is based on assumption.  Again, assuming isn’t necessarily bad or counter-productive, but when we let our false assumptions guide us, well, it is like assuming that Kansas City is west of California.  We may really believe it, we may be sincere in our assumption, but the fact that it is incorrect will not serve us well if our goal is to take a road trip to Kansas City.

And we make both correct as well as false assumptions based in large part on the experiences in life we’ve had.  It stands to reason then, that we are all significantly influenced in our assumptions about parenting by how we ourselves were parented.  Again, this may be very good and lead to effective parenting with our kids, or, it may send us in directions that serve neither our kids nor ourselves very well.

This series of 10 short articles will address what I believe are the most widely held and debilitating parenting false assumptions-assumptions that if not challenged can wreak havoc in our efforts to be the parents we want to be.

Just one small disclaimer that may send you to the delete button, but I hope not:

In my 39 years of private practice, I have seen no more than a handful-15 or so-children. (“So why should I listen to this guy go on and on about better ways to parent?”, you may be asking)

I have not usually worked with kids because I have usually found that as we parents “fine-tune” our parenting attitudes and skills, we see changes for the better in our kids.

I have, however, worked with many, many adults who used to be kids and have often found that the parenting they received was directed and motivated by many of the false assumptions we will briefly address in the 10 articles here.

So most of what I have written is influenced by my work with adults who in various ways often struggle as a result of some of these faulty assumptions we will address.

As always, feel free to go to the “Your thoughts and ideas” and let yourself be heard. Who knows, what you have to say may just be of benefit to someone else.

Please click on one of the 10 False Assumptions of Parenting  to learn more:


  1. All unacceptable behaviors are signs of challenges to my authority so should be handled by me in the same way.
  2. Challenges to my authority are avoidable and if they do occur, it is sure sign that I am “losing the battle” and am not a good parent
  3. It is my anger that finally motivates my kids to obey.
  4. If I just love my kids enough, then everything else will fall into place.
  5. I should be able to out, “Yes, but my kids…”
  6. If my kids don’t seem to be listening, then they will not be affected by what I say about them to others.
  7. My kids must earn my respect and it can be lost if they don’t perform, obey, or live up to my expectations.
  8. Doing the opposite of what mistakes my parents made with me must be the right way for me to parent my kids.
  9. If I want my kids to love me, then they must need me.
  10. If my disciplinary approach works to get the desired behavior change in my kids, then it must be the right approach and all right to use.

Discussion Questions

False assumption #1: All unacceptable behaviors are signs of challenges to my authority so should be responded to in the same way.

All unacceptable behaviors are not created equal.  Of course we all know that. Some unacceptable behaviors that we endure with our kids are more painful and may have greater consequences. Some call for drastic measures on our part while others hardly need our attending to at all.

Just as important to realize is the fact that not all unacceptable behaviors that our kids might toss at us are necessarily all an attempt on their part to challenge or usurp our authority.

In my book, Parenting With An Attitude, 21 Questions Successful Parents Ask Themselves, I make a distinction between the will of our kids, and their spirit.  Their spirit refers to the attitudes they develop about themselves, as well as toward life in general.  Among other characteristics, a healthy spirit reflects an attitude of self-acceptance and a well-balanced assessment of their worth and value.  It is our role to help develop their spirit and to help protect it.

Their will on the other hand, is something very different and must be discouraged and harnessed, if you will.  That too is an important part of our parenting task and goals. Their will refers to a natural tendency to be defiant, self-willed and demanding.  We’ve all been witness to an individual-child or adult-whose will has not been discouraged nor harnessed; it’s not usually a pretty sight.

And most of us have witnessed a child or adult whose spirit, rather than his will, has been broken; that too, is not a very pretty sight. Too often, a child grows up to be an adult whose spirit was broken while their will ran amuck; yet another sight that’s not so pretty.

The reason it is important for us parents to understand the differences between the will vs. the spirit of our kids, is that there is no quicker way to break a child’s spirit and at the same time light a fire under their destructive will, than by making the false assumption that all of their unacceptable behaviors are motivated by their need and determination to usurp our authority. Let me explain.

It seems to me that behind most unacceptable childhood behaviors one of four causes can be found.  There may be more than these four, but these are the most common and recurrent. First, an unacceptable behavior may simply be due to Ignorance.

Ignorance may be in play behind behaviors that we want to change at all ages of development.  Understandably though, our kids are not above using ignorance as a reason when in fact it is not.  That’s why our making the determination is so difficult, but nonetheless important to do.

When ignorance-something they have not yet learned- leads to an unacceptable behavior, then it must be addressed differently than if it had occurred as an attempt to usurp our authority.

The second cause that may at times lie behind an unacceptable behavior is a Mistake.

Stated simply, that just means that or kid new better (was not ignorant), but got careless, didn’t think fast enough, or any one of a number of circumstances that interfered with their applying what they knew to the current situation. (I’m sure that most of us parents can relate to times when we knew better-weren’t ignorant-but for some reason, made a mistake that led to an unacceptable behavior on our part.

When a mistake leads to unacceptable behaviors, then it must be addressed differently than if it had occurred as an attempt to usurp our authority.

The third underlying reason that can lead to unacceptable behaviors we see in our kids is the need for Attention.  This makes more sense when we understand the principle that,  “negative strokes are better than no strokes at all”.  “If I can’t get attention in positive and acceptable ways, then maybe misbehaving will get what I need”.

In the course of our busy lives we can develop a pattern of giving our kids attention when it is absolutely necessary because they are in some way acting unacceptably, but to neglect giving them the attention they need when all seems to be going well. Too often, it can be the squeaky (misbehaving) wheel that gets the grease (our attention).

In spite of the fact that their negative behaviors seldom bring about what they most want, i.e., some form of positive connection, at least they get an acknowledgment via being yelled at, spanked or in any other way disciplined.

When the need for attention from us leads to unacceptable behaviors, then it must be addressed differently than if it had occurred as an attempt to usurp our authority.

And the fourth reason that can lie behind their unacceptable behaviors is in fact, their need to Usurp Our Authority.  When that attempt is made, we must see it for what it is-not ignorance, not a mistake, and not a cry for a bit of attention, but the result of a full blown (but natural) need to be fully and completely in charge of his/her own life.

More about challenging and usurping our authority will be addressed in the following articles on false assumptions.  Suffice it to say here once again, that it is essential to successful parenting that we do our best to assess and evaluate what the underlying reasons or motivations are behind the behaviors that need our attending to, before jumping in with a response. While some corrective response may be needed, which response is appropriate can only be determined when we have a good idea of what lies behind the unacceptable behaviors of our kids.

Suggestion: Easier said than done perfectly, but attempt to evaluate what is behind

unacceptable behaviors before responding to them.


False assumption #2: Challenges to my authority are avoidable and if they occur, it is a sure sign that I am “losing the battle” and am not a good parent.

Not only are challenges to our authority unavoidable, they are inevitable and must be seen as learning and shaping opportunities.

Don’t we all want our 18 year olds (they DO still leave home don’t they?!) to leave home having the confidence to think for themselves, and to make their own decisions?  Don’t we want them to stand up and be respected for their thoughts, beliefs and values, rather than be swayed by peer pressure and all the other pressures to conform that will surely come their way?

Of course this is what we want.  We just don’t want them to practice on us!

But practice on us they must and this is where their challenging what early in their development they simply absorbed as “the truth” from us, comes in. Granted, there is a good, acceptable and healthy way to challenge us, and that too must be shaped and influenced by our efforts.  And we will do this more affectively and with greater success, when we see that it is natural and necessary for them to challenge what they have always accepted from us as gospel.

In Parenting With An Attitude….21 Questions Successful Parents Ask Themselves, I address the idea of a sponge-like brain that our kids originally come equipped with at birth, so I won’t belabor the explanation here.  Suffice it to say that, initially a small child’s response to what they hear, see and are told is to simply absorb and to conclude, “If you say so, it must be true” (man, those were good days.  All we had to do was feed ‘em and wipe ‘em!).  But very soon as their brain begins the slow but sure developmental process, this first response of absorbing as truth what they are exposed to, morphs into something like, “Wait a minute! What do I think”.

And this is when the birth of challenging our authority enters our relationship with them.  We don’t have to like it, but we really do need to accept it, and to understand that it is not only necessary and natural, but that this new found ingredient of challenging us can be used to shape and mold them into a healthy adult who is able throughout their life to think wisely for themselves.

Suggestion: Recognize that some form and degree of rebellion (challenge) is necessary, and that it is  the “bridge” between, “If you say so, it must be true”, and, “Wait a minute, what do I think?”



False assumption #3: It is my anger that finally motivates my kids to obey.

How often have I heard this one?  However, when you stop to think about it, this is a reasonable assumption that kids can make that seems to actually take on a bit of truth when the following pattern develops:

Mom instructs her kids to pick up all their toys before they start their favorite TV program.  Two minutes later, the still fairly patient parent repeats her request- but this time with just a bit more exclamation and decibel in her voice.

Five minutes later, the somewhat more impatient parent returns, and much to her dismay, sees that the chore of picking up the toys has still not been accomplished.

This time, our now disgruntled mom yells at the top of her lungs, “I told you three times to pick up your toys.  Now this time, do it!”.  And sure enough, this time, they do it.  They pick up their toys. Sure seems at first glance that the introduction of a little out of control anger was the missing ingredient the first several times, since, when finally it was included in the instructions, the toys got picked up.

So, it is easy to assume that the motivating variable was indeed anger. The trouble is that it was not.

Although at first glance it might look like it, the new motivating ingredient added the third time was not Mom’s anger, but rather, the understanding the kids finally had that Mom now meant it. In the past experiences, she never has really meant what she said until she said it with anger.  This is because from countless past experiences, they learned that when Mom asked nicely the first time, she didn’t really mean to pick up the toys NOW, because they knew she would be back three or four more times before she would convey via her anger that now, she really did mean it.

Rather than anger being the motivating factor, the real influence for obedience kicks in when kids figure out, “Mom really means it this time, so we’d better comply”. The trouble is that in the incident described above, Mom’s anger was paired with her (this time) really meaning it; without the anger, they still had several more requests and warnings to come before they had to comply.  So they didn’t.

The real motivating factor, then must be that, “Mom really means it”, but without pairing her request with her anger. The trick, then is to communicate the first time in a way that convinces them that, although the anger is not present, “I think Mom really means it the first time”.

Suggestion: Learn ways to show them by your words and actions that you mean what you say the first time and before anger has entered the picture (as usual, easier said than done, but a necessary goal nonetheless).


False assumption #4: If I just love my kids enough, everything else will fall into place.

There was a book written in the early 1970’s I believe, titled, “Love is Not Enough.  As the title suggests, the author’s primary objective was to drive home the point that when it comes to parenting, there is more involved, more required of us parents, than to simply love our kids.  Most of us know that, but too often it seems that many of the other ingredients required for successful parenting are minimized or in some cases, left out al- together.

I’m not certain, but it does seem to me that out of all the responsibilities we have as parents, loving our kids is the only one that is instinctual. It is innate, it is there from the very beginning, and does not come and go based on how we otherwise are feeling toward them during difficult times.

We don’t really have to work at loving them.  Even in the midst of wanting to strangle the little devil, we still love him; even when our little girl who used to worship the ground we walked on begins to question and doubt us, we still love her.

So if love is the only instinctual ingredient in our role as a parent but it is not enough, then what else is required of us?

In an attempt to answer this question, I wrote, PARENTING WITH AN ATTITUDE….

21 Questions Successful Parents Ask Themselves. Rather than repeat myself, I refer you to a list of 21questions that address what beyond loving our kids is necessary for their emotional health and well-being. It is certainly not an exhaustive list, but rather examples of parenting responsibilities that take an intentional effort on our part with our kids that don’t just happen naturally because we love them. And, as the title suggests, all 21questions address the importance of our attitudes toward them.

To access the 21 questions successful parents ask themselves go back to the home page of my web site and click on “a peek into Parenting with an Attitude”. There you will find brief excerpts on each of the 21 questions that address what beyond loving our kids is required of us.

Suggestion: Remember that loving our kids-as important as it is-is just the foundation for much more that they need from us.


False assumption # 5: I should be able to out, “yes, but” my kids.

In all my many years, I have never met a parent who could actually out, “yes, but”, a kid who was determined to get what they wanted.  I have concluded that it is just not possible since kids have infinitely more new and fresh ways of shaping and reshaping their request, than we parents have new ways of saying, “no”.

So why do many of us continue to rally back and forth with our kids in a futile attempt to get them to gladly accept our “no”?

Possibly the most common reason is that we want our kids to be happy, even though we are unwilling to provide that happiness by giving in to their wishes when we know better than to do so. What often keeps us in the debate is that we are hoping to get from them a response that might go something like one of the following:

“Oh, thanks for saying no. You are right!”

“I really need you to limit me and I appreciate it”.

“Thanks for interfering with my getting what I want.  That makes me sooooo happy!”

“I’m glad you are wise enough to know that I’m not mature enough to realize that what I want is not good for me, so thanks for watching out for me”.

“Thanks so much for saving me from myself!”

Dream on.  We may never get those responses-and if we do, it will be long after the fact.  Probably not until they have given birth to their own kids and finally get it.

The outcome of such futile battles with our kids is usually one of two unfortunate Scenarios.  Either we get so worn down that we give in to their pleading just to end the pain of it all, or we get so frustrated that our anger leads us to play the power card (because I’m your mother!),  thus ending the discussion in a destructive manner that damages our relationship . Neither is acceptable and certainly not enjoyable.

Consider this alternative approach:

Son: “Hay, Dad, can I spend the night at Jason’s house tonight?”

Dad: “I’m going to have to say no since it’s a school night and you need to be up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for school.  Maybe another time”

Son:“But Dad, (yada, yada, yada)”

Dad: “I’ve told you once but just to make sure you heard me, I’ll say what I said one more time (no need to change your wording the second time.  It’s a lot easier and far less taxing just to use your original words). I’m going to have to say no since it is a school night and you need to get up early for school tomorrow morning.  Maybe another time”.

Son: “But Dad, (a new and improved version of the original yada, yada, yada)”

Dad: “I don’t have any other way of explaining my decision so I won’t try again to get you to understand.  It’s not that I want to cut off communication with you, it’s just that I don’t have any more to tell you that I think might help you understand”.

Why is it that all this stuff is far easier to explain than it is to do!?  But do, we must.

Suggestion: State your position clearly, be willing to repeat it a second time if necessary, and no more. (“If I had any more to add, or a better way of stating what I have already said, I’d say it again.  I don’t, so I won’t”).


False assumption #6: If my kids don’t seem to be listening, they won’t be affected by what I say about them to others.

In my book, and above in false assumption #2, I go into detail describing what I call a child’s sponge-like brain.  I suggested the idea that our kids are constantly absorbing into that little sponge, data that comes their way. While some aspects of personality are genetic and predisposes us to certain characteristics, much of how we develop and evolve from an infant to a full blown adult comes about as a result of what we hear, how we are treated, what we observe and the messages we are given during that stage of development where our brain doesn’t have the capacity to do much more than to absorb.

Once that little sponge-like brain has absorbed and basically concluded, “if they say so, it must be true”, then the tendency for the owner of that brain, is to set out in life to reinforce, substantiate and perpetuate what it initially absorbed from what it heard.

This is kind of like brain washing I suppose, but this inevitable process-call it shaping or call it brain washing-can be advantageous to the development of our kids, or it can be misused and lead to an unfortunate result, depending on the messages they hear from us. That’s in large part an explanation-albeit simplistic-of personality development.

While their sponge-like brains are constantly absorbing, so too are their two ears constantly transmitting to their brain what they hear, weather they appear to be tuned in to what we are saying or not.

I must confess to a habit of occasionally eves dropping on conversations taking place at Vons (or any other public place for that matter) between two shopping parents.  I know they are parents when, not far from the conversation taking place can be found a couple of kids, both vigorously scaling a mountain of cantaloupes, or maybe attempting to surreptitiously load Mom or Dad’s cart with quite a few boxes of frosted flakes.

And while the kids are busy being kids, there is the following conversation going on between the two parents who have run into each other:

“Jamie is fairly coordinated, but her brother is the smart one”

“I really don’t like bringing Austin to the store with me because when I do, it always seems to take me longer”.

“I can’t tell you how sad I was when my sitter pooped out and I had to bring Conner today”.

Justin just can’t seem to catch on to 2nd grade.  I’m beginning to think we should have held him back”.

I know what you’re thinking:  picky, picky, picky.  Perhaps, but it is important to consider how over time, our messages begin to create a blue print for a child’s self-esteem. So why not fill their little sponge-like brain with positive messages for them to live up to, rather than negative ones for them to live down to?

Certainly all of us have said things within ear shot of our kids that weren’t the best. And we could argue that they don’t seem to have been negatively affected much.  True enough. It is not so much the occasional messages, but rather, a chronic and repetitive pattern of negative messages we want to avoid.

Fortunately, we can get away with making mistakes-lots of mistakes in fact.  That’s a good thing since none of us is perfect and we will all make plenty of blunders during the course of our parenting years.

For more on this subject, go back to my web site and click on “A peek into Parenting With An Attitude”, and then to the overview of chapter #1 “What Do My Kids Hear Me Say About Them?”.

Suggestion: avoid saying anything about your kids-either to them or to others-that you don’t want them to hear. Instead, say positive things to others that you DO want them to hear (I was so proud of Luke when……..) In either case you will be helping to create a road map that will either serve them well or work against them for the rest of their lives.


False assumption #7: My kids must earn my respect and it can be lost if they don’t perform, obey, live up to my expectations, etc.

This is another topic that I focus on in my book.  Once again, for additional suggestions on this topic, go back to my web site home page and click on “A peek into Parenting With an Attitude” and look for chapter #2 overview-“Do I respect my kids?”

I strongly believe that generally speaking, kids who are respected during their formative years are the ones who grow up being willing and able to respect others. If this is true, then it gives credence to the saying, “respect is caught, not taught”.  And yet, we’ve all heard the sound bite, “I’ll teach you to respect your elders”.  It seems to me that logically, the former makes much more sense than does the latter.

There is an important distinction, however, between respect, which I am suggesting must be offered to our kids unconditionally, and privileges and rights which are indeed earned, conditionally offered, and can for a time be taken away in response to unacceptable behaviors or attitudes.

Respecting our kids also does not mean we are obligated to blindly and unconditionally approve of their behaviors, or to accept their decisions as always right. Respecting our kids does not require that we show constant appreciation for them when clearly there are reasons for our disapproval and disappointment. However, all of our challenges can and must be addressed within the context of our respecting them for who we know they are in spite of whatever current behaviors are taking place that deserve our admonishing them.

Respecting our kids also does not require an attitude of equality when it comes to decision-making.  Simply because we have the final say where we feel it is necessary does not negate the respect we hold for them.

So what then are some of the ingredients of respecting our kids?

Do we make jokes at their expense, thinking they should laugh at themselves rather than be hurt?

Do we make fun of the friends they choose because they are not the friends we’d choose for them if it were up to us?

Do we interrupt when they are attempting to explain or express themselves-something we would never tolerate from them?

Do we treat our kids the way we want them to treat us? (now, don’t play the “no, but I’m the parent”, card).

Do we ever ask our kids what they think about life issues, like current events?

Do we ever ask their advice about some life circumstance we may be struggling with? (this doesn’t include making them our shrink).

Do we ever tell them we are proud of how they handled a particular situation, and maybe even let them know we learned something from obswerving how they responded?

All of these and others send a very loud and clear message of respect to our kids when they see that we care what they think and how they feel, and that what matters to them, matters to us.

It’s not brain surgery, just good common sense.

Suggestion: recognize the differences between respect, vs. rights and privileges.  Find creative ways to give consistent messages that communicate your respect of them.


False assumption #8: Doing the opposite of what mistakes my parents made with me must be the right way for me to parent my kids.

Seldom in life is the extreme opposite of right, automatically wrong.  Likewise, seldom is the opposite of good, necessarily bad either.

We’ve all said it growing up:  “When I grow up and become a parent, I’m going to do things exactly the opposite of how my parents do things with me”.  Fortunately, most of us came to our senses well before we had kids and realized that often, Mom and Dad were not so wrong after all.  Or if we believe they were wrong about how they handled certain issues, we wisely realized that the very opposite was not necessarily a good option either; maybe something in the middle of both extreme possibilities might be an alternative to try out.

Examples of this could go on and on.  Here are just a few:

As a child you were raised in a very structured and controlling household where there was little wiggle room for making decisions for yourself, or for being appropriately independent. Virtually all decisions that affected you were made by others.

As a parent, you have decided that your parents were wrong in their approach and you will do things the opposite way.  Consequently, you provide few guidelines or expectations for your kids. They are left to make their own decisions with little guidance (control?) from you. They come and go pretty much as they please.  Not because you don’t care, but because you are bound and determined to be the opposite kind of parent from what you had growing up.

As a child, you grew up in a family short on physical and emotional affection. You longed to be touched and held, but for reasons unknown, it seldom happened.

Years later, you have a family of your own and, by golly, things are going to be different-just the opposite in fact, of the way things were in your physically-deprived family of origin.  So you hold and snuggle and touch your baby every moment you can.  A good idea at first, but as your baby grows and matures you continue to insist on the same degree of closeness and touch you showered your new born with.  Only now, it’s not showering, it’s smothering.

As a child you were raised under the thumb of highly and inappropriately punitive parents.  Absolutely nothing got past them and you had “hell to pay” for the smallest infractions.

Now you have a family of your own, and you are determined to not make the same mistakes your parents made with you (a wise decision so far). But you conclude that the best way to assure that you don’t follow their oppressive ways is to take the opposite tack.  As a result, you have few expectations for your kids’ behaviors, virtually no consequences for their misdeeds, and they grow up learning that there are few consequences for their behaviors; thus, they believe they are free to behave pretty much as they please.

Suggestion: remember that the opposite of what is wrong, is seldom what is right.  Think of options that fit neither extreme, and that seem appropriate to your current situation.


False assumption #9: If I want my kids to love me, they must need me.

It can be easy for us parents to confuse our kids needing us with their loving us. If there were indeed a connection between the two, then let’s hear it for raising kids that never learn how to live life without assistance from us! Let’s hear it for raising kids that never leave home!  After all, what parent in their right mind would encourage their kids to grow and mature into a free standing, independent person if they believed that in doing so, they would no longer be the recipient of their offspring’s love and affection?

Clearly, if we believe that as our children become more self-sufficient and independent, that their love for us dwindles, then because of our understandable desire to be loved by them, it stands to reason that we would do little if anything to help them develop the independence necessary for healthy and mature adult living.

When parents raise their kids under this false assumption-and it is usually subtle rather than a conscious decision they have made-then it follows that there will be greater likelihood for relationship problems and difficulties to develop between them, not to mention setting the stage for relationship issues throughout the course of their adult life.

The truth is however, that in healthy and growing relationships, there is no connection between being needed and being loved.  If you believe this, then your parenting will look remarkably and positively different.

There is a sad irony in all of this:

When we falsely assume that in order to be loved, we must be needed, the outcome is likely to be the very opposite of being loved. This is because when a child has been deprived of the necessary guidance and encouragement to be independent, and in so doing maintains his dependence on others, he will likely become angry and bitter toward the very one who so badly needed his love in the first place. Anger and resentment is a common outcome because their dependence has created weakness, much like when muscular atrophy occurs due to lack of use. They feel helpless and incapable of taking care of themselves and typically, they blame their enabler.

There are of course, all levels of severity to the possible outcomes of dependence. But in any case, creating undue dependence in our kids in order to be loved by them is never a good idea.

Suggestion: recognize there is no connection between being loved and being needed, and that there are much better reasons for your kids to love you.


False assumption #10: If my discipline approach works in getting the desired response from my kids, then it must be the right approach and ok to use.

On a related topic to this false assumption, you might want to read the 7 articles I have posted on this web site addressing the differences between punishment and discipline, as well as the 7 that consider the differences between parental power and parental authority.

Parenting by this false assumption can lead to “winning the battle, but losing the war” with our kids.  In considering this, would you first take a minute to review the distinctions between their will and their spirit? An explanation of the differences can be found above in False Assumption #1.  It is important to understand the differences between the two and to remind ourselves from time to time just how important it is to encourage their spirit, while teaching them to bridle and control their will.

Simply using any method of correction we might choose may indeed bring about immediate behavior improvement, but at the same time stifle their spirit and light a fire under their strong and potentially destructive will.

Someone recently commented to me that their child was well behaved and never gave her any grief. She was quick to add, “So I must be doing something right”. Perhaps she was right, and hopefully so, but not necessarily.

All sorts of responses to unacceptable behavior and attitudes come to mind.  And all would likely bring about our desired attitude and behavior adjustment in our kids:

-Grounding for six months as a result of disrespect;

-beating them for taking money from your wallet;

-public humiliation for talking back;

-how about a little water boarding to cure the problem of sneaking out after hours?

-yelling and threatening for not eating properly at the table;

-the silent treatment for lying;

-a ball and chain might work well to bring an end to wandering off without permission.

-washing their mouth out with soap for swearing.

-ten hour work day in the yard (how ‘bout no food or water?) for failing to do a chore;

Exaggerations all, but I think you get the idea.

It might be tempting to indorse any of the above if the only goal in our disciplinary efforts were to effect an immediate change in how our kids are acting. The goal however, is far more profound and far reaching than merely extracting instantaneous changes in how they are currently conducting themselves.

It might help to remember that whenever our kids are behaving in some way that is unacceptable, we are given yet another opportunity to shape and influence both their spirit and their will. And what disciplinary responses we choose will help determine whether we shape and encourage a vibrant and healthy spirit, or whether we actually encourage and reinforce the development of a willful and defiant attitude in them.

Suggestion: Remember that although our response may immediately work to bring about desired changes, there may be undesirable results to our inappropriate choices of disciplinary actions.




Discussion Questions:


Did any of these false assumptions ever play a part in how you were raised?


Do any of the 10 false assumptions occasionally show up in your own  parenting efforts?


In addition to the above suggestions, can you share any other ideas that could be helpful?

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