National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Essay What?

Family Matters

BY John Lilly

August 12-18, 2007 Issue | Posted 8/7/07 at 1:49 PM

 

I make my older kids write essays of apology if they are disrespectful. But sometimes the essays are nastier than the original nastiness.

A core law of parenthood: No matter how creative your discipline, a child can find a way to outmaneuver it.

I’ve always been fascinated by the tone of the typical article in the typical parenting magazine. The conventional proposition has become that, if only you properly discipline Harmony, she will understand, accept and be grateful for your guidance. No arguments, no resistance, no escalation. Just full cooperation. I love fantasy.

Don’t abandon a good discipline idea because your kids try to turn it against you. Their smart-alecky response doesn’t mean the idea is bad. Most likely it means just the reverse.

Your kids are driven to convince you to abandon your approach, as it is having an effect.

A great thing about being a parent: You don’t have to out-think the kids. You own the game. Make a few rule changes.

? Respect is expected, whether verbal or written. Essay nastiness not only invalidates the original essay; it also leads to a second assignment.

? Disrespect within the essay nullifies the whole essay, not just the offensive parts. Otherwise, savvy kids will just expunge the offending sections and recycle the sections that bespeak of what a truly remarkable parent you are to have raised such a fine offspring. You could confiscate the original, so Holmes has no template from which to copy his new editorial.

? A consequence of a different sort, in addition to the essay, may be added. For instance, a mean screed leads also to one hour’s worth of labor. Most verbal disrespect is impulsive, or emotional, or a bad reaction to your bad reaction. Written disrespect is more calculated and deliberate. It usually represents a premeditated commentary on your parenthood. Thus, it may need additional discipline.

Almost all discipline works through repetition. Because Edgar Allan reacts poorly to his first 20 essays in no way means he won’t learn some valuable self-control, even virtue, from essay number 21 through infinity. When a youngster doesn’t agree with what you’re doing as a parent — and such is so with most discipline — he usually lets you know somehow.

Sometimes an essay is just a written fit. Hey, it’s better than having stuff thrown at your walls.

Dr. Ray Guarandi is a father of 10, a psychologist and an author.

You don’t need an appointment to see him at DrRay.com.