In 1991 Thomas Gordon published a wonderful book, Discipline That Works: Promoting Self-Discipline in Children. It’s full of wisdom and sound advice about the futility of parental power and control methods.
Twenty-one years earlier, 1970, he had published his excellent book, Parent Effectiveness Training. The only people who have been listening to him, apparently, are parents. (I have rarely seen him quoted or referred to by experts.) Thank goodness parents have been listening though! Many thousands have attended his parent effectiveness training workshops.He must be doing something right, even if very few experts quote him or appear to subscribe to his ideas.
Gordon clearly spells out the many problems associated with parental use of power and control methods to get children to behave. In this excerpt from PET, he talks about adolescents, but the point he is making is applicable to pre-teens and toddlers too.
The English language plays tricks on us that we either don’t notice, or just live with. For example, we erroneously say, “The sun rises and sets.”
We do this with people too. On the internet advertisers talk about “driving traffic” to a specific website.This kind of talk is a delusion that the advertiser’s methods can somehow control the choices a searcher makes and “drive” him or her to the website.
We often delude ourselves into thinking a parent can or should be able to control a child’s behavior. Here’s why that’s impossible.
Controlling child behavior is a tricky business. It presents significant problems for parents, teachers, and everyone who works with children in any way whatsoever.
The problem we face is that children do not always want to do what we want them to. Age of the child has nothing to do with it. They too often just don’t like to be told what to do. And then we are faced with the challenge of what to do to get them to behave the way we want.
Obviously, there is no easy answer. We don’t have remote of their brain! So how is a frustrated parent supposed to approach the vexing topic controlling child behavior?