Discipline, the Everlasting Gift

Discipline That Lasts a Life-time: The Best Gift That You Can Give Your Kids by Raymond N. Guarendi

Servant, 2003

306 pages, $10.99

To order: (800) 488-0488


My husband recently relayed the following account of an incident that occurred while he was driving to the dry cleaners with our sons, ages 2 and 4. “They were fooling around, becoming louder and egging each other on in a negative way,” he reported. “I had the sense that I was losing control, that they were not going to listen.”

Every parent knows the frustration of such moments. Most also know the experience that often follows: a futile effort to impose discipline in which, at best, the parent succeeds in shouting the kids down and winning a short-lived peace.

Thanks to this practical, realistic book on the art of discipline by Register “Family Matters” columnist Raymond Guarendi, my husband knew what to do. “I remembered Dr. Ray's if-then rule,” he said. “I raised my voice slightly above the din and told them that if they continued their foolishness, then they would not receive a lollipop at the cleaners. The rest of the ride was spent in near silence.”

Eschewing psychological buzzwords and excessive permissiveness, Guarendi's advice begins with this simple insight: “You are the parent in your family; they are not.”

He defines discipline as simply putting limits and expectations on a child's behavior — backed by consequences, when necessary — in order to socialize and build character.

Our kids heard the limits and knew my husband expected a change. He promised a certain consequence if things did not change and was ready to adhere to Guarendi's key counsel: Always follow through with the promised consequence. Those boys knew their father was prepared to deny them the butterscotch lollipops the dry-cleaning proprietor customarily gave them — no matter how much they cried or complained.

Set limits. Promise consequences for refusal to meet them, and always be true to your word. “If not,” writes Guarendi, “our words will be meaningless.”

Good discipline is never nasty, adds the author. Setting limits and holding children responsible for their behavior is good parenting, and kids benefit from these lessons throughout their lives.

Guarendi gives many suggestions to help parents create boundaries.

I especially benefited from the book's third chapter, “Discipline is Acting, not Yakking.”

“Words, no matter how many, how logical, how emotional, how loud, can't replace real discipline,” writes Guarendi. “Action, less talk, more action — a time-tested formula.”

He describes talk as “the illusion of discipline.” He adds that “nagging, lecturing, over-reasoning, pleading … are all forms of talk, all frustrating and all imposters of legitimate discipline.”

The book is laid out in a question-and-answer format that makes it easy and enjoyable to read.

A father of 10, Guarendi has much to offer on this subject. He provides parents with words to use while talking with children and offers humorous anecdotes that come straight from his own household.

While some readers may not agree with some of the consequences he proposes for correcting bad behavior, his suggestions for house rules are simple, clear and effective. They include such gems as “You hit, you sit” and “You fight, you write.”

Good discipline never sounded so easy — or so smart.

Jeannette Balantic writes from Floral Park, New York.