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What is “reality discipline”?

Family at dinner table. Photo copyrighted. KEVIN [Dr. Kevin Leman]: We never tell parents to punish. We tell them to discipline, train, and teach their kids, but that doesn't mean that there might not be some kind of “pain” or consequence involved. That's how the kids learn what the real world is like and how it works. Reality Discipline gives the child a chance to make his own decisions and then live with the result of his mistakes and his failures or his good choices and his successes.

RANDY [Randy Carlson]: You know, Kevin, when we tell people they can give children choices, some moms and dads might think that sounds permissive…

KEVIN: Not on your autographed copy of Dr. Spock! The last thing you can call Reality Discipline would be “permissive.” But the best thing about it is that it is not authoritarian. Reality Discipline helps parents avoid making some big mistakes. Authoritarian parents often tend to think that they own their children; that they are judge and jury of every little thing that happens; that their children can’t fail; and—heroes the favorite—"Look, Kid, I'm the boss and what I say goes!"

We always say that the parents are in healthy authority over their kids. In other words, I never let my kids use me or manipulate me, but at the same time I don't come down on them with "Its my way or the highway!" That can work with some kids for a while—maybe while they grow up, but later in life it can come back to haunt everybody.

RANDY: Okay, at “Parent Talk” we’re not permissive, nor are we authoritarian. We hit a happy medium—maybe the best way to describe it is authoritative. A child doesn't care what you know about parenting; what he really wants to know is, "Do you care about me?" That's really the essence of Reality Discipline. By holding kids accountable, or, as you say, Kevin, "pulling the rug out," parents use a combination of love and limits, which helps children feel safe and secure as they grow and develop during their maturing years.

KEVIN: We always like to say,

“Love and discipline go hand in hand.”

Pulling the rug out means the parent goes into action and just doesn't do a lot of talking. Kids can smell it in a minute if you just talk and don't really mean it. And after you pull the rug, you stick to your guns and hold your children accountable for their actions. That's how they learn from any experience.

Using Reality Discipline means…

  1. Being in healthy authority over your children.
  2. Holding your children accountable for their actions
  3. Combining love and limits on a consistent basis.
  4. Dealing with every child as the unique individual he or she is.
  5. Being tough but always fair.
  6. Using action instead of words.
  7. Sticking to your guns and following through with enforcing consequences.
  8. Following the biblical instruction not to exasperate your children and make them angry and resentful, but to bring them up with loving discipline and godly advice (see Eph. 6:4, The Living Bible).

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Author: excerpt from Parent Talk by Dr. Kevin Leman and Randy Carlson of Family Life Communications

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