Saturday, March 5, 2011


I bought a book called "Discipline that lasts a lifetime" by Dr. Ray Guarendi. He's a psychologist and the father of TEN children, he also offers parents practical help through a syndicated advice column and his national radio program, The Doctor Is In, through the Catholic radio station.

I believe as parents we all want to do our best to raise our children who are well behaved. There are endless ways on how to discipline but there is also the secular discipline way and God's way.

Today, I went to the mall with my sister Wendy and my daughter Sofia, as I told Sofia not to touch a certain item on the store, Sofia said, "are you happy Mami? are you upset?" I replied, "I'm not upset and I'm very happy because I love you very much but at this time, I need you to do exactly what I'm asking."

Sofia, asked me several times after that if I was upset and/or happy. My sister turns to me and says, does she fear you? what have you done to her that she keeps asking you these questions? I said, I have only disciplined her in a way that she understand that when Mami is serious she needs to listen and do but I always reassure her that I love her very much.

People can misinterpret that  my daughter fears me when in fact, she doesn't. She can be very defiant but that defiance doesn't last too long in our household. Sofia knows that if she doesn't do what we ask of her, she gets action out of mom and dad.

As I open the book that I just purchased it opened to this:

A Healthy Fear

Dear Dr. Ray,

I've heard experts say that children should never fear you or your discipline. Sometimes my son (age six) looks pretty scared when he's done something wrong and I've found out. Now, I'm starting to feel guilty.  - Fearsome

As we've noted, in some trendy child rearing theories, the word "discipline" has lately developed a bad reputation.  The same has happened--just as undeservedly--with a few other once-respected words.  Among the other terms most popularly disliked are "punishment" and "fear." The message is: If you are psychologically savvy enough, you'll seldom have to discipline, much less punish, and you'll never invoke fear.

On a recent television show I was debating the pros and cons of spanking with a child rearing specialist. (There's something odd about having so many specialists these days telling parents how to do something correctly that they've been doing without us for a millennia.) Violently anti-spanking, this expert asked me if I'd ever spanked my children. "Yes," I replied, "for certain misbehavior's."

She practically smacked me with her response: "Then your children must fear you." Temporarily off balance, I replied, "How can you say something like that? You don't know me or my children. Besides, I want my kids to have a healthy fear of particular consequences.  And since my wife and I are the one enforce those consequences, at times their fear might temporarily be attached to us. With maturity they'll come to understand the love behind our actions."

My reasoning didn't budge her. In her eyes, anyone who at any time for any reason swatted a bottom was a fear-monger. Period.

My wife and five-year-old son were watching the show at home. Turning to him, she asked, "Andrew, are you ever afraid of Daddy?" "Nah."

I think his answer bothered me more than the expert's rebuke. How often have you or another adult, after watching a child bullying his parents or being otherwise obnoxious, said something like, "If I'd have tried that with my parents, it would have been all over. I just knew better." Most parents with such recollections--often warmly recalled, by the say--grew up in loving homes.

Was fear a part of their discipline? Sometimes. It wasn't a fear that made them tremble when a parent walked by. It was a fear based on respect, not to mention wariness of the unknown: What would Mom or Dad really do if I was foolish enough to push them that far?

I have no fear of judges. I like them.  Society needs them. Yet I'm very afraid of what they could to to me if I ever earned a visit to their courtroom as a criminal. The fact that your son occasionally looks upset in the face of discipline is on sign he's developing a conscience. And as far as I'm aware, not too many are calling conscience bad--not yet, anyways.  A measure of fear and guilt, whether we like it or not, is inextricably tied to a healthy sense of right and wrong.

Because your son does worry about your reaction, say, if he leaves the yard without permission, he's less likely to wander away. Not only does he stay safe, but you and he spend a lot less time wrangling over the issue. Your boundaries are clear; he knows that; and he's assured you'll back your words with action. Maybe his fear is better called a mature regard for reality.

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