Putting Your Best Disciplinary Foot Forward

By Donna Howard
Family Page Columnist

Obviously, we all want to be our best self when we are around other people. We also want our children to be on their best behavior. We don’t want to be airing our dirty laundry in front of the world. We want to be proud of our children, and we want our children to be proud of us.

However, always living this way can backfire.

Remember that fake-it-until-you-make-it line? It only goes so far when dealing with families. Of course, we need to wait until we get home to discuss improper behavior with a child so that he or she isn’t humiliated in front if their friends.

But what if that discussion never happens? What if the offending behavior is never dealt with, and what about the child that was on the receiving end of hurtful comments, looks, or gestures? Do they not matter enough for you to help guard them?

There is always time for what we feel are the most important things in our lives. If we consider a child’s feelings, and another child’s conduct, significant enough we will certainly remember to take time to manage such issues.

If we don’t, the injured child is going to feel slighted as if they don’t matter as much as the offender. In turn, the offender will quickly realize that the best time to act out is in public, because other than a glare, they will not be disciplined. By the time they arrive at home, the incident has been forgotten.

In some families, there is a substantial amount of bullying happening right in the home. Children are being picked on, embarrassed, and teased beyond what is acceptable. Punches may be thrown, personal items might be disappearing, and privacy is often violated. The bullying can even extend to school, with children humiliating their sibling in front of other students.

This can be extremely damaging. Children often delay informing parents because of fear or choosing to believe it is their own fault. In the meantime, their self esteem is damaged and their relationship with their sibling often fails.

Let’s look at this principle in a practical example. When Sylvia went to her father with a problem with her sister, she spoke politely and asked for his help in dealing with it. His response? He burst into laughter, stating that it was a small thing and that she could handle it on her own.

Was it a small thing? Perhaps. But in that one small moment, she lost faith in the father she thought would protect her. In that short span of about ten seconds, she realized just how alone she was. Even her own father wouldn’t help her. Never again did she confide in him. There was no reason to. If he wouldn’t help her with a small issue, she certainly didn’t want to talk to him about the larger topics.

Be aware. Watch for the signs of bullying in your own home. It can happen in any family.

Also be considerate enough of your children to deal with issues that affect them. A benevolent smile and saying that everything is fine, when it isn’t, is offensive to a child. They will think that they don’t matter enough for you to take your time and energy to help them. In turn, you will lose their trust and confidence.

Donna Howard has ten children, has had foster children, runs a business, is a musician and composer and teaches adjunct at BYU-Idaho. She can be reached at music@musicinspiration.com.

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