Established upon principles of strength, discipline, and honor, so much of the wisdom offered by Canadian psychologist, Jordan B. Peterson, reminds us of the importance of accountability—as it relates to living fulfilled lives of meaning and purpose. By choosing words with surgical precision, he maintains intellectual correctness and represents everything that is good and appropriate about nurturing yet stern parenting.
In Peterson’s masterpiece, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, his chapter Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them, fully supports his thesis: as individuals hold themselves accountable for living properly, we collectively build a more peaceful society. It all starts with parenting; discipline supports peace. Peterson writes: “It is an act of responsibility to discipline a child” and reiterates more harshly that to not discipline is “lazy, cruel, and inexcusable.” If “you’re not acting responsibly as a parent, you’re leaving the dirty work to someone else, who will be much dirtier doing it.”
1. Limit the Rules
Excessive force instills fear. Bad rules drive out respect for good rules. Mother should find the right balance between chaos and authoritarianism. By using the levers of discipline intelligently, parents can create a home environment to help children limit and eventually, hopefully, eliminate attitudes and behaviors that lead to undue social hardship.
Peterson writes, “Do not bite, kick, or hit, except in self-defense. Do not torture and bully other children, so you don’t end up in jail. Eat in a civilized and thankful manner, so that people are happy to have you at their house, and pleased to feed you. Pay attention when spoken to by adults, so they don’t hate you and might therefore deign to teach you something. Go to sleep properly, and peaceably, so that your parents can have a private life and not resent your existence. Take care of your belongings, because you need to learn how and because you’re lucky to have them. Be good company when something fun is happening, so that you’re invited for the fun. Act so that other people are happy you’re around, so that people will want you around.”
2. Use the Minimum Necessary Force
By using incremental corrective action, mothers can minimize household anguish. A family’s harmony relies on mom’s ability to appropriately guide the flow of conflict—going from zero to hero is seldom best. If too harsh or inconsistent, we miss the mark, and children miss out on learning valuable lessons. We can progress from a glare to a verbal command to reframing the verbal command with increased severity and/or urgency. If words aren’t affecting positive change, it’s time to up the ante. Assign children to a set amount of time in the “Thinking Chair.” If children still won’t listen, physical restraint may be needed. In worst-case scenarios, Peterson recommends holding the child firmly by the upper arms until they stop squirming and pay attention. Peterson writes: “For the child who is pushing the limits in a spectacularly inspired way, a swat across the backside can indicate requisite seriousness on the part of the responsible adult.”
The cold truth: miserable, bratty children grow into miserable, bratty adults; this outcome is good for no one, least of all the child.
3. Parents Should Come in Pairs
Imperfectly human, neither children nor parents are angels all the time. When one parent is overtired, sick, injured, travelling, or otherwise less than optimally effective, children stand to benefit when the other parent steps in. Parents who have each other’s back “ebb-and-flow” together as a team, true partners equipped to provide children with a more supportive upbringing.
4. Parents Should Understand Their Own Capacity to be
Harsh, Vengeful, Arrogant, Resentful, Angry, and Deceitful
We might not realize it, but adults aren’t designed to tolerate being dominated by a disobedient child. After a temper tantrum, children with big smiles may later run up to mom, excitedly sharing a new accomplishment, only to be met by the “cold shoulder” from a previously all-too-patient mother. When parents forego discipline during a child’s tantrums, resentment can creep in on us. “After-the-fact” maternal retribution, whether abrasive or subtle, breeds bitterness and sabotages future opportunities for bonding, learning, and development. Peterson writes: “This is only the beginning of the road to total familial warfare, conducted mostly in the underworld, underneath the false façade of normality and love.” While we can’t always control our children, we can always control ourselves. Awareness of our attitudes and behaviors towards our children is hugely important; correcting ourselves as needed is paramount for the health of our family.
Discuss acceptable vs. unacceptable boundaries and dispense suitable discipline at appropriate times. Random discipline is commonly over-zealous, it doesn’t reinforce learning and tends to influence undesirable outlier behaviors of timidity or rebelliousness. If we find ourselves guilty of incorrect disciplinary measures, we should admit them quickly and emphatically, while also apologizing sincerely. Taking ownership of our parenting missteps can be the elixir to reestablishing and strengthening mutual trust and respect.
5. Parents Have a Duty to Act as Proxies for the Real World
As mothers, we limit chaos by setting predictably consistent rules and enforcing predictably consistent consequences. Without adequate maternal guidance, undisciplined children are not fun to play with and are more likely to be ignored or even ostracized by their peers, further perpetuating their unruly tendencies. As the first introduction to authority, a mother can profoundly influence the trajectory of a child’s entire life. Limits and discipline are necessary for encouraging children to grow into honorable and peaceful citizens.
Peterson writes, “If a child has not been taught to behave properly by the age of four, it will be difficult for him or her to make friends. Rejected children cease to develop because they are alienated from their peers.” Consistent adherence to the above Five Rules establishes a powerful foundation for parents who want to raise their children in a nurturing environment. “A child who knows these rules will be welcome everywhere.”
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PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.