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Who's the Boss? Leading Children by Setting Limits

Updated on November 24, 2016

Setting the Limits

“Why is discipline important? Discipline teaches us to operate by principle rather than desire. Saying no to our impulses is strictly congruent to acquiring values and places us as commanders in chief over our appetites rather than vice versa. Simply said, "it deposes our lust and permits truth, virtue, and integrity to rule our minds instead.” - John F. Mac Arthur Jr.

No doubt, modern parenting is an evocative 21st century movement which by the standpoint of many old schoolers, seem to betray the conventional wisdom of older generations, including that of relatives and friends. At the most transparent level the argument follows that children today are entitled by "birth rights" to demand from parents the satisfaction of any pervasive desire, just so as far as it construes in the child's mind the illusion of greater self esteem and power. Parents that put in effort to treat this illusion by applying the tenancies of ancient wisdom, are often criticized and slandered as "unfits" by an ever growing sway of parenting experts and early childhood gurus, and so it is almost imposed upon modern day parents to empower their children at the expense of their wallets, values, and emotions, and binding to ridiculous treatise. Although at best a dazzling argument, it fails to unveil the ugly truth behind such a stupefying dilemma.

In my opinion, it is an embarrassment for any parent to invest himself for one second in such lopsided notion since it implies that modern day parents are powerless dupes incapable of applying inherent conceptual knowledge and logic for themselves. It even suggests that modern day parents have no sovereignty over the emerging egos of their children, and even less control over their lives. But before pointing fingers at the children, parents need to peer into the likely roots of all this "child empowering business" with scathing depth and honesty.

Unless a child is ill and, parents are investing all their resources in helping their child live; there is no reason on earth a child’s whim should be welcomed with a warm reception. That is just ridiculous. Even insinuating that it is within a child’s power to know what's best for him, is nothing more than nonsense teasing intellect. What's worse, entertaining this reinterpretation of what a good parent should be like, throws the parent in the dungeon and puts the scepter in the child’s hand. In fact, it is in more than one sense a mocking allusion to a parent's inability to guide their children with shrewdness and character. I've literally seen parents struggling to pay their bills, all because they felt the responsibility to satisfy their child's "need" for the latest PlayStation, tablet, not to mention other expensive and inessential items.


Who to blame?

Of course, parents can choose to blame society, or the emergence of industrialization for their financial woes. After all living in this century does carry a hefty price tag and we have somehow lost the mysterious ability of making functional and entertaining hand-made toys. However, what we as parents do with our money should be strictly congruent with our financial resources, and not influenced by the obstinate and often unreasonable demands of a child. First and foremost, as parents, we have the responsibility to teach our children the meaning of contentment, appreciation, and reasonableness. Of course, we all love our children, and strive to give them the best we can, but that is exactly the key phrase here: “best that we can, not that we can't.

Parents who are dominated by their children often seek refuge behind the pretext of the infamous tantrum, not realizing that tantrums are a subtle form of manipulation, and if not curbed early on, can later down the line transmute into insolent, disrespectful behavior. That is why children need to learn early who is the boss. Being wishy-washy parents translates into lack of consistency and children don’t need to be prodigious to realize the best place in which to practice being alpha.

It is really in the best interest of the child when a parent sets firm limits. However, never should a parent carve an art out of saying no to their children's petitions, so as long as they are of genuine concern, benevolent, and are presented in a respectful manner. If it is within the means of a parent to provide what the child inquires, then a parent can definitely concede. The determining factor in this scenario is that the request is within the means of the parents, and for the highest good of all.

Molding Children

Children are malleable and as a potter molds clay, parents are responsible by order of higher courts to mold their children into well mannered, responsible, sensible individuals. We can mold children by teaching them a sense of duty towards the family unit, and helping them grasp from tender age that as part of a family, they also have a reasonable degree of responsibility towards the economical, and emotional well-being of the family. This will prevent them from turning into selfish, egotistical human beings who live to please only themselves. We can also mold them into financially responsible people by teaching them to earn their money instead of always giving it to them. In this matter of earning money parents do well never to pay for household chores that are already by natural logic part of the child’s domestic responsibilities, such as cleaning his room, or disposing of garbage. In that way the child doesn’t get the erroneous idea that he must get paid every time he or she lifts a finger.

Parents that take the rein can lead their children into adulthood with absolute confidence that they will grow up to be responsible, caring individuals with family core values. The word discipline should not frighten neither the parent nor the child, for the word in its most basic sense means the making of disciples. The parent who loves his child disciplines him. Not spanking and yelling, but with love and firmness.

Regaining Control

For some parents gaining back control over their children may seem as daunting as reaching for the peak of Mount Everest, especially if their children have already entered the challenging teenage years. They may feel that their children have simply crossed the line so many times that it has blurred beyond recognition. Is there any hope in this situation? The answer is an affirmative yes!

First, we should never give up on our right to be a parent: this is not a choice, it is an obligation. Yet, although throwing in the towel is out of the question, you don't have to do it alone, There are networks out there that can give you sound advice on how to handle head-strong children. A great website to visit is Empowering Parents. This website even offers a free assessment for parents to help them put a plan of action together, and has an arsenal of information dedicated to helping parents gain back their control. Most behavior modification coaches will advise you to come up with a plan of action and to seek support within the family, the school system, and even your child's pediatrician. The important thing to remember is that lax parenting avoids offending your children's feelings, but risks spoiling them. it may take a while to get things back on track, but it can be accomplished. Be patient with yourself, and with your child. Read all you can about challenging behaviors and appropriate discipline practices and you will be on your way to better parenting.


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    • mrod profile image

      Monique Rodriguez 2 years ago

      Thank you Madison,

      Yes, since the word disciple means learner, or following the teachings of another, we can make disciples out of our children. Thanks for reading.

    • profile image

      Madison 2 years ago

      Great article! I especially like the part where you say discipline is derived from the word disciple, makes me think of making little disciples. I've seen many parents who blame their children for their finacial woes. and I also think that is ridiculous.