Despite the conclusion one might reach after reading the latest issue of any popular parenting magazine, the job of parent is actually quite simple; so simple that I can describe the entire ball of wax in less than 15 column inches.
First, a parent's responsibilities -- beyond providing the basic necessities of life -- are to provide unconditional love and unequivocal leadership. The "trick," if you will, is to keep those provisions in a state of balance. Too much of either is toxic. Love without an equal measure of authority expresses itself in the form of numerous enabling behaviors. Likewise, authority without an equal measure of love quickly turns into abuse of one sort or another.
Second, there are but five fundamental understandings that a parent needs to convey, lovingly and authoritatively, to a child:
1. You are to pay more attention to me than I pay to you. (Three Bits of Helpful information: First, all discipline problems are due to children paying insufficient attention to adult authority figures. Second, the more attention you pay a child, the less the child will pay to you. Third, you obtain a child's attention by simply acting like you know what you are doing.)
2. I am in charge here; therefore, I tell you what to do. (Helpful information: When giving an instruction to a child, always use the fewest words possible and do not explain why you are giving the instruction. Explanations sound persuasive and provoke push-back.)
3. You do what I tell you to do. (Helpful information: Parents who want child to obey for their own benefit don't get it. Obedience is in the best interest of a child. The research finds what common sense affirms; that is, obedient children are also happy children. You get a child to obey by acting like you know what you are doing.)
4. You do what I tell you to do simply because I tell you to do it. (Helpful information: If you do not accompany an instruction with an explanation, then your child is forced to ask for one. That gives you the Golden Opportunity to respond with the most powerful four words in a parent's vocabulary: "Because I said so.")
5. At any given time, I do not care what you think of me or any decision I make. (Helpful information: Parenting is not a popularity contest. When you want your child to like you, you end up doing things that negate your ability to provide leadership, which means you end up enabling.)
6. You can always count on me to provide for and protect you under any and all circumstances. (Helpful information: If your child is secure in that understanding, then the world is a safe place and, therefore, eventually becomes the child's "oyster.")
I ask you: Could that be any simpler?
John Rosemond, family psychologist, can be contacted at johnrosemond.com.