Conventional Discipline Is Harming Your Relationship With Your Kids and Your Relevance As a Parent

You are more powerful than your child. There’s no disputing that fact (at least for now). Physically, you can have your way at any time. You’re more experientially and emotionally developed. The upper hand is yours.

The problem is that if you use your power, you sabotage your influence. They’re negatively correlated. The more power you use, the less influence you have. The more power you use, the more disconnected the relationship becomes.

I call this the Power Paradox and it’s precisely why you need to be a philosophical parent rather than a parrot parent.

A parrot parent is someone who parents on autopilot. They default to whatever strategies and tactics were used on them as children or they blindly copy the latest tactics they saw on Supernanny. They buy into mainstream or religious definitions of discipline and expectations of child behavior. They’re blindly parroting others, even if they insist they’re parenting deliberately.

A philosophical parent’s strategies and tactics are rooted in concrete principles and reason. Philosophical parents understand the five pillars of authentic leadership and behave accordingly. They know discipline means “to teach,” not “to punish.” They’re not perfect, by any means, but they always have the child’s best interest at heart.

What philosophical parenting produces is a parent that’s responsive rather than reactive. Responsiveness is the number one trait of an influential parent. As your children get older (and bigger), there’s only one thing you can hope to have: influence.

Spanking, time-out, yelling or raging, and the levying of punishments — conventional discipline — are all reactionary behaviors. Reactionary parents believe that acting this way is okay — even if they’re not necessarily proud of it — because it let’s the child “know who’s boss.” It’s a muscle-flexing, primitive, power-based display.

While it does communicate power, it also communicates that the parent is triggered and out of control, two states that are antithetical to influence. It also let’s children know that violence, isolation, and coercion are legitimate tactics when you’re upset or when you want your way, especially if the other person is smaller and weaker.

It’s also a sign that the child has gained a unique power over the parent. If your child’s behavior can trigger emotional outbursts in you, then the ship you’re both on is without a captain for the time being.

Lastly, it’s hypocritical. If your child is out of control and reacting emotionally and you respond in a manner that’s also out of control and filled with emotion, you’re putting yourself on the same level as them. Insisting you’re the source of influence when you’re in the same emotional state as a small child is a tough sell.

Remaining calm, showing respect, validating, thinking critically, connecting, teaching, and even negotiating are all responsive behaviors that communicate to the child that the parent is, in fact, in control of the situation.

The reason many parents struggle to be responsive, rather than reactive, is because they take the child’s behavior personally. If their four year old child hits them, they respond as if it was another adult who hit them. They immediately go into defense mode, lash out in anger, and levy punishments.

Parents also project future outcomes on the child, insisting that if they don’t squash this undesirable behavior their child will become uncontrollable, violent, or immoral. This irrational fear, which is driven by mainstream perspective, religion, and fear of failure, can cause parents to react harshly.

Taking things personally is a symptom of the parent’s wounded nature. Their own wounds blind them from seeing the situation for what it is: their four year old is extremely frustrated, probably for good reason, and has exhausted all other means of communication. It’s not personal and it’s not a sign of potential evil, it’s a behavior born out of incomplete emotional development.

A four year old child will never say, “Mom, I’m feeling very frustrated because you’ve been pushing me in this stroller for three hours and I’m hungry and tired. Truthfully, I feel like hitting you right now because you’re not meeting my needs, but I’m choosing to have this conversation with you instead.” Not in a million years.At some level, you know this. So, why do you take it personally when they communicate in the only way they’re capable of communicating?

It’s a given that children will act like children. The question is, how are you going to act as the parent? Being reactive is what children are. Being responsive is what parents should be. Only one of you has a choice.

It’s a given that children will act like children. The question is, how are you going to act as the parent? (tweet this)

Another way that parents take their child’s behavior personally is by believing that the child is capable because they’ve shown capability in the past. For example, a parent might say, “She’s just melting down because she’s being selfish. She can handle sharing that toy, she did it yesterday.”

Displaying emotional capability once does not mean that behavior can be repeated consistently, under all conditions. The willingness to share yesterday has nothing to do with the willingness to share today. Things change. Perhaps she’s more tired today, perhaps she’s tired of sharing according to your arbitrary expectations, or perhaps she’s hungry.

Adults, whose brains are fully developed, can’t even manage to behave consistently. So, why do we expect children to? And then we take it personally when they fail to be perfect? We call them names and dish out punishments? We assault them? We engage in screaming matches and power struggles? It’s silliness. And it’s destructive.

Influence is gained when you’re compassionate and consistent. When you have clear boundaries and limits that you deliver with warmth and respect. To do that, you must ditch the parrot parenting, empathize with your child’s lack of emotional development, and work on healing your own wounds so you can avoid trying to parent from a triggered state.

If you can accomplish this, you’ll also deeply strengthen your relationship with your children and meet all the long term goals you have for them. That’s what it means to be an authentic parent.

71 comments
  • Julia

    There is so much truth in this. It’s so easy to default back to mainstream parenting when our limits are being tested but it’s not doing our children any favours and only perpetuating the problem. I’m always in need of this reminder, thank you!

  • Tia

    Brilliant advice, especially like the part about adults with fully formed brains managing to behave consistently!

    Great post, thank you 🙂

  • Amom

    What a great article. I need to be reminded of these things all the time. I have a baby, and I’m going to do my best to shed the reactive disciplinary tactics I grew up with and try to do better for my baby. I really enjoyed this piece. I’m pretty sure it was written for me specifically. 😉

          • JB

            Yes you do know what she means. You are just being passive aggressive and playing dumb instead of acknowledging the fact that you didn’t really have a better response other than indirectly showing your lack of respect for their beliefs. You have no idea how good or bad they are as a parent, but you just decided that since they are religious leaning, you are going to feel “sorry for them”. Pathetic.

        • Kevin Geary

          You are just being passive aggressive and playing dumb instead of acknowledging the fact that you didn’t really have a better response other than indirectly showing your lack of respect for their beliefs.

          If by, “their beliefs” you mean hitting children, then you’re absolutely right.

          You have no idea how good or bad they are as a parent, but you just decided that since they are religious leaning, you are going to feel “sorry for them”.

          And I’m supposed to gather these details from their vague line about Jesus and their full-on dismissal of the article at hand? Give me a break.

          I didn’t say I feel sorry for them, I said I feel sorry for their kids. It’s hard to have people who refuse to think critically as parents.

      • Kelly

        How can you be sorry when you don’t know what it means? And why are you thanking everyone for their positive feedback praising you, yet others who question it you ignore or are rude too?

        • Kevin Geary

          The dismissal of all the principles I’ve laid out here suggests that they are going to do the opposite. It’s nothing more than critical thinking. It sounds like you agree with them, thus you’re interested more in attacking me than you are with making your own objection or rebuttal or laying out your own set of principles.

          • KK

            Whoa. Kevin Geary, you are completely acting defensively and it’s really unattractive for someone who just doled out a piece on non-reactionary/non-emotional responses to behavior. I don’t agree with hitting children either, but the fact remains that it’s not illegal. And, frankly, she didn’t say that she hit her children, you assumed so from what you THINK about her religious beliefs. For the record, even though I don’t agree with corporal punishment, I was spanked and my parents are very relevant to me and always have. I have a Master’s degree and am a productive member of society who volunteers a lot of her time to those less fortunate. It’s not the way I would choose to parent (just because I don’t get instilling a non-hitting policy on kids and then hitting them), but to say that it makes a parent irrelevant or ineffective is short-sighted and pretty judgemental. Just my thoughts.

          • Kevin Geary

            I’m not assuming *anything* about Kelly. We’re talking about Derrick and his 100% dismissive comment. I’m not being defensive at all. I’m pointing out the inconsistencies in what people are saying.

            Furthermore, all your objections have already been addressed. They’re nonsensical. Having a master’s degree is not a virtue. I never argued that people who are spanked can’t be successful in life. Your entire comment is a straw man.

    • Bates

      This doesn’t seem at all inconsistent with Christian parenting. When did Jesus ever react to his immature, disobedient, inconsistent disciples in a way that wasn’t calm, loving, and aiming towards teaching them? We are meant to be representatives of Jesus to our children first and foremost – that means having self control, kindness and patience at all times. The word “discipline” is the same as “to disciple” which means “to teach” not to “punish”.

      • Foley

        Thank you for your comment. So often failures of parents get blamed on God or religion. If we as parents would follow what Jesus taught about living and descipling with love and respect, we would never be screaming or impatient with our children.

        To be honest, at times I find these types of articles very condemning for not being the “perfect patent.” However, just as is pointed out in this article about our children, adults are emotional beings who are not perfect either. We should strive to do what’s best for our children, acknowledging our failures and pursuing change. We do have a choice, and we can choose to be responsive and not reactionary in how we deal with our children, just as the Bible teaches. Unfortunately, we will make mistakes as people and we will make mistakes as parents, but our mistakes do not have to define who we are. Just because we are parents doesn’t mean we have all the answers or have stopped growing. Life is a continual process of growth, if we will allow change in our lives.

        • Emmy

          Love this article, and this comment as well. I wasn’t the parent I want to be today, and I’ve been feeling very defeated. I think I’m going to post “We will make mistakes as people and we will make mistakes as parents, but out mistakes do not have to define who we are” on my bathroom mirror, and try to do better tomorrow!

      • Siul

        Oh honey I hope you do realize what you said is out of hand.

        corporal up punishment temporarily halts unwanted behaviour and create tension. It doesn’t teach wanted behaviour.
        Dude, simple psychology.

    • Amanda

      As someone else said–this article isn’t contrary to religious ideals–rather it complements them well.
      If you believe that God created families to be a microcosmic example of t
      His love, and that Jesus is God incarnate, then loving, responsive, humanizing parenting is the only options.
      Does the Bible tell us to discipline? Yep. Does discipline mean punish?
      Nope. It means to teach. Literally, and that is the word it was translates from.

      Wanna bust out some “spare the rod” verses? Please don’t waste both of our time without first doing a little contextual research and gleaning that the “rod” referred to in all accounts is one that was used as a tool to gently guide–by placing it alongside the herds to steer them in a specific direction–in fact it is an extremely gentle tool and never used to inflict pain or “punishment”. It was also used to aid livestock that had fallen and needed assistance to their feet. Some pretty rich metaphors there.

      Finally, as the author sagely mentions–we as adults cannot behave consistently, and in this way we are most assuredly able to embrace a complimentary belief system within “religious ideals”–
      We recognize our fallibility as humans and as parents and cling to Grace that His redemption can bring healing to our Children and our relationships when we fail.

    • Amanda

      I think this article coincides with the parenting of a patient, loving, divine, Eternal Heavenly Father. Christianity teaches us to “love one another”. Jesus loved the little children and often told us we should be as little children. I have learned so much about being a more “Christlike” parent from the thoughts of Kevin Geary.

      Kevin,
      I appreciate your articles and the way they make me search myself and see what I need to change to be a more inspiring guide to my children.

  • Corinne

    I am the mother of 3.5 year old twins. Last June I had an abortion and have since then been picking up the pieces. I used to be a terrific philosophical parent but seem to have fallen off the wagon since this summer. Do you have any advice on how to rejuvenate my parenting skills as I nurse my psyche back to health?

    • Kevin Geary

      I’m so sorry, Corinne.

      For me, reading or listening to new perspectives always motivates me. If you send me an email I’ll make sure you get a free copy of Without A Fight.

      Cheers.

    • Bates

      Check out the book “crazy love” by Francis chan as you work on picking up the pieces. I am so sorry you’re going thru this hard time but there is hope! A good future certainly awaits you.

  • Jasmine

    Good article, but how is philosophical parenting put into practice? What are examples of actual real life responses/actions that should take the place of reactive approaches such as timeouts?

  • ruby

    I am very happy to read this, loved this part ” adults, whose brains are fully developed, can’t even manage to behave consistently. So, why do we expect children to? ”
    I usually find my son 5 years frustrated when he can not finish something he started and i realised he is just like me but i can keep this feeling inside.
    My main problem with him i feel out of control coz he says i am not the teacher so he can not listen to me, so i started to use more power to get control, but i do not feel good in this , as much more demanding and yelling and really i want him to be friends
    sorry for taking so long

    • Kevin Geary

      I cover the foundational tools in Without A Fight. But, we’ll also be discussing specific tools on the blog and podcast as well. Make sure you’re on the email list 🙂

  • Linh

    How about some examples of this type of parenting. What do you do if your child runs across a busy road and won’t come back. Deliberately smashes a glass, continually hits another child after you ask them to stop. All I see are theories and smokes screens, give me some hard examples of this style of parenting in practice please?

    • brado

      Agreed. Or how you do this lovely patenting style with more than 1 child at a time… try having 3 kids under 4. doesn’t negotiating just teach the child how to argue when being naughty, rather than teaching that there is a consequence for bad behaviour….

      • Kevin Geary

        This parenting style works with multiple children. Besides, it *has to.* If you have a principle that hitting children is wrong, you can’t place qualifiers on that. For example, you can’t say, “hitting is wrong if you have one child, but if you have three, it’s fine.”

        Right? We’re working off principles and values here. But with that said, yes, it still works. As I told Linh, I gladly take email submissions of specific scenarios and will work through them on the blog as an example for everyone.

    • Kevin Geary

      Hi Linh,

      I gladly take email submissions of different scenarios and will gladly run through them on the blog. But, much more detail of the scenario is required. Solutions are very context-dependent. There are no black and white answers.

      Please hit the contact button and email me a specific scenario with as much detail as possible and I will write an article about it. Your name can be changed if you wish.

  • Emma

    Great article. Only problem is his assumption that a fully developed brain allows us to presume our own emotional development. I will buy the book, for sure.

  • Corinna

    Dear Kevin,

    Thank you for this summary. Unbelievably I was crying on the sofa last night, feeling depressed about my reactivness with my very challenging 5-year old, trying to share my frustration with my husband… And then I wake up this morning to find your article via “gentle parenting”.
    To get out of the devestating circle of continuous power struggle some recommendation to improve my responsiveness would be much appreciated.
    I have tried Amazon UK for your book but as I do not own Kindle I cannot get to it. You wouldn’t happen to disribute a pdf version or hard copy? Thanks and best regards

  • windi

    Hi Kevin,

    Love this article and was interested in more. I went to Amazon to buy the Without a Fight book and realized that it’s only available for a kindle, which i don’t have nor do I want to buy. How can i get a hard copy of the book?

  • Brandon

    Thank you. This opened my eyes. I wish I had stumbled into this 7 years back. Please let me know the corrective measures for a child who has already gone through some parrot parenting.

    • Kevin Geary

      Thanks for your comment Brandon — and for having an open mind. Really, it’s just about doing better going forward. Anything that happened, happened. But today is a new day 🙂

      If you stay engaged with the site and podcast, you’ll pick up a ton of new skills and strategies.

      Cheers!

  • Cara

    Very well written. As a mama of 3 under the age of 6, I definitely struggle with anger, and out-bursts. We struggle with consistency, and while we are trying to discipline with compassion and grace, in line with scripture, we still fall woefully short. Great reminders that it all comes back to the parent, and our own selfish desires for control. I never knew I had a problem with anger until I became a parent. This article reminds me of “Good and Angry”, another great read. Will have to check out your book…but when it comes down to it, it is about controlling yourself first, and aligning your expectations accordingly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • kate

    I consider myself to be fairly ‘philosophical’ parent, partly because I’m quite a calm person naturally. But I have 3 kids under 4, I’m tired, and sometimes I just want a break, like everyone does. When they’re all screaming tired and driving me crazy, like tonight, I can really start to have a go at them and lose my calm. They don’t often see this, but it does have a pretty powerful effect on them when it does happen. I told them I didn’t want to read to them and left their dad to put them down, essentially storming off. When I came back later, the oldest boy was already in bed, and called me to apologise for his tantrum. He was clearly gutted and just wanted a cuddle. He also wanted me back on side. I was calm then, told him he was allowed to be like that, and that while I was cross at the time, I was fine now, and thankful for his apology.
    In short, I think there is space for allowing ourselves to lose our cool at times and not beating ourselves up about it. We are human, our children need to know and understand this, and feel able to cope when people are irrational around them. Trying not to analyse every last thing you do. Being a parent isn’t really rocket science – just be yourself, be kind and reasonable, honest, happy, moody. Whatever as long as you talk to your kids about it all in a genuine way.

  • rupa

    Your article was mind blowing. I loved reading it and felt guilty also for trying to impose my authority on my 11 year old child. As I come from traditional culture (Nepal), where children must respect their parents dictum such parenting reactions flow easily and is expected to be understood despite your tender age. Personally I don’t react like my older generation, however sometimes I tend to be a bossy mother. Thank you for sharing this and I will definitely correct my dealings/communication/reaction with my child.

  • jessica

    So good to hear this.so true……I am too hard on my children, expecting them to be perfect when I havent even kept my cool while being upset. Thank you for this…..I think that growing up with parents like that is ruening the future generation.also public schools have killed family structure and made us stupid in that we don’t know how to have family relationships.everyone is so into “friends”.

  • Inna

    I have a 6 & an 8 year old, and this article hit just the right spot. I get so emotionally caught up when my 6 year old doesn’t behave and tells me he hates me. I overeact and act like a grown up told me this! Its as if this uncontrolable emotion comes over me and I become extremely hurt and I believe I have cried about this in front of my kids. I learned over the years that screaming and irrational behavior doesn’t work! You must always be calm and remmember you are always in control.

  • Jess white

    I totally agree with this, great article. Parenting is about leading by example. If you constantly loose your temper or shout in an aim to be authoritative then what does this teach our kids? Eventually children end up with many of their parents’ traits, especially when they are bringing up their own children. So we have a responsibily for future generations in the way we live, act and teach our children. Staying calm but at the same time having boundaries and sticking to them is crucial. Children thrive when they are loved and have a set of rules to live by. It is also important for children to know that they can talk things through with us rather being dictated to, this creates confidence and the ability to think for themselves.

  • KK

    You are ABSOLUTELY defensive. Take off your colored glasses and take a critical look at how you respond to those who agree with you and those who don’t. The ones that agree with you are met with kind words and smiley faces. The ones that don’t share your vision are met with snarky comments. For someone that purports to use ‘critical thinking’ so far above the average person, you really don’t have any patience for constructive critcism. Also, you insulted my degree (for which I worked extremely hard and of which I am very proud) and said it was not a virtue. I can tell you one virtue that I DO possess. I treat EVERYONE with respect and refuse to be a person that meets those that don’t agree with me with unkindness. If can’t say I’m seeing the same from you. Best of luck to you. I hope that you gain perspective about they way that you present yourself to people.

    • Kevin Geary

      None of my comments are snarky, for one. They’re direct. I don’t sugar coat things. I didn’t insult your degree, I stated a fact. Having a degree has nothing to do with being a good person. That’s a fact. Whether you accept that fact or not has nothing to do with me.

      • KK

        “I didn’t say I feel sorry for them, I said I feel sorry for their kids. It’s hard to have people who refuse to think critically as parents.”

        That’s not snarky?? Oh, I think I’ve figured it out, you’re one of those “I say rude things and hide behind the guise of just being ‘honest'”. You, my friend, are a dime a dozen. The fact remains that you could have disagreed with her and said something along the lines of ‘I disagree with your parenting style and it’s not how I will choose to write my editorials”. To the point, factual, and notice it didn’t mention the adult not having any critical thinking or feeling sorry for their kids. You’re an unlikable person. Just being honest!

        • Kevin Geary

          I said I disagree with hitting kids in the name of Jesus. Believing that God or Jesus wants you to hit your kids is antithetical to critical thinking. It’s just a fact. Facts aren’t assholes unless you want them to be. Grow up.

          • KK

            And that’s what I said earlier. That persons never said he/she was a parent that hits. You assumed that because they said something about the bible and God. More and more I just view you as someone with NO credentials, not tact, and no maturity. Best of luck in your writing.

          • Kevin Geary

            Please follow:

            Step 1: Someone writes an article about not hitting kids.
            Step 2: Someone completely dismisses article and says “I think I’ll parent the way God tells me to instead because Jesus turned out just fine.”

            What should I imply from that? Especially since every highly religious person I run into tries to tell me that the Bible commands them to hit their kids?

            Maybe if you spent all this energy on spreading the message of peace with children we’d all be in a better place. Instead, you’re attacking the person who is trying to do just that because of your own defensiveness around your religion.

            I will not allow you to waste my time anymore. All further comments from you will be ignored.

  • Furla

    I disagree with your points – especially since you’ve managed to contradict yourself in the comments. How disgusting seeing an advocate of ‘critical thinking’ lashing out on those who don’t share the same beliefs as him. Newsflash: your parenting is not the ONLY effective kind of parenting. It does not mean that when someone disagrees with this, they are automatically FOR corporal punishment. What a very narrow way to think. You could’ve shared good ideas – but your attitude screams otherwise. If you had reactive parents, then youre part of those who was affected negatively by it. I and a lot of others have undergone the same thing – and do not deem our parents irrelevant nor got affected negatively by it. On the contrary, it has made me love and appreciate my parents more.

    • Kevin Geary

      How disgusting seeing an advocate of ‘critical thinking’ lashing out on those who don’t share the same beliefs as him. Newsflash: your parenting is not the ONLY effective kind of parenting.

      So, your theory is that this is all just about what I think? It’s just my opinion?

      I made the argument that hitting children is UNETHICAL. In order to intelligently rebut that, you’d need to make the case that hitting is ethical. Care to do that? Or do you just want to continue wasting everyone’s time talking about how you think this is all just my opinion?

      It does not mean that when someone disagrees with this, they are automatically FOR corporal punishment. What a very narrow way to think.

      When you DISAGREE with the principle that hitting children is wrong, that means you believe that hitting children—in some capacity—is right. Is this not the case? Am I wrong somewhere?

      I and a lot of others have undergone the same thing – and do not deem our parents irrelevant nor got affected negatively by it. On the contrary, it has made me love and appreciate my parents more.

      Honestly, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • Zack

    Hi Kevin,

    I’ve listened to the podcasts so far and have read most of the book. I’ve only recently began also reading the blog posts.

    While I agree with many of the concepts you guys teach, my challenge is in the area of definitions, and possibly logical fallacies, equivocation, strawmen, etc.

    For example, you often replace the word “spank” with “hit” when writing or in the podcasts, then challenge people with something like “tell me when hitting your kids is ethical”. This is where definitions and equivocation come in to play. Who can argue against the phrase “when is hitting your kids ethical?”

    The problem is, “hit” is one thing, and “spank” is another thing. I’ve also heard on the podcast, statements like “you don’t go around hitting other adults, so why hit your kids?” This is again an equivocation. Hitting and spanking and not only two different things, but the context of two adults getting in a fist fight, and a parent spanking a child as a form of punishment, are so wildly different they can’t even be compared like this.

    A lot of the Reboot Your Kids philosophies seem to revolve around treating kids as if they were the peers of the parents. In other words “you wouldn’t act like this to other adults, so why do it with your kids?” But this seems to ignore very obvious differences. Children are not adults, and different people CAN be treated differently based on status and role.

    Two adults with functional brains expect a modicum of civility and socially acceptable behaviors from each other. The relationship of adult to child is nothing like this. Children quite naturally will, and should, be treated different because they are learning, and need guidance, discipline, boundaries, and consequences for bad behavior.

    It’s not my job to discipline other adults so none of these things apply. But it is my job to raise a child, so those things are my job and DO apply to the relationship I have with my kid.

    My point is, using a philosophy of “you don’t do this with adults, so why do it with kids?” is wrongheaded in my opinion. We do LOTS of things different with people in different statuses. I treat my wife different than other men’s wives. I treat my best friend different than I treat a cop, and different than I would treat the president if we met.

    When it comes to discipline models, if they are not approved by RYK, they are treated as if they can only be used when parents are out of control, emotional, reactionary, angry, etc etc.
    If I choose to spank as a consequence of a certain behavior, it has nothing to do with me being emotional, angry, out of control, or mindlessly “hitting” and fighting my child. It is quite simple, a parent sets a level-headed and clear behavior consequence. “If you do this thing, you will get spanked for it.” If the child does that thing, the child gets that consequence.

    How is that out of control, angry or having emotional fights with my child? It is just a method of teaching that there are consequences for bad behavior. I find it absurd that someone would think this simple method is just a “power play” of showing my strength. Like somehow I need to prove my might to a 4 year old?? Absurd.

    To spank a child’s bottom for running into the street is a tiny pain, a SMALL price to pay to help prevent a much BIGGER pain, like getting hit with a car. You don’t sit down with a 3 year old and have philosophical discussions about the pros and cons of running into the street. They don’t understand!

    What they DO understand is the association of small pain with bad behavior and this association gets embedded in their brain. I would rather my child associate a small pain with climbing on the kitchen table, then a large pain of a cracked skull while they “explore their world”.

    I certainly don’t spank for everything, I don’t know any parent who does. I simply think it’s one tool in the toolbox, which can be rationally used by IN control, non-emotional, non-power-hungry, non-reactionary, sane adults in training their children.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Kevin Geary

      For example, you often replace the word “spank” with “hit” when writing or in the podcasts, then challenge people with something like “tell me when hitting your kids is ethical”. This is where definitions and equivocation come in to play. Who can argue against the phrase “when is hitting your kids ethical?”

      The problem is, “hit” is one thing, and “spank” is another thing. I’ve also heard on the podcast, statements like “you don’t go around hitting other adults, so why hit your kids?” This is again an equivocation. Hitting and spanking and not only two different things, but the context of two adults getting in a fist fight, and a parent spanking a child as a form of punishment, are so wildly different they can’t even be compared like this.

      Wait a minute. “Spanking” is equivocation. Hitting has an actual definition: “bring one’s hand or a tool or weapon into contact with (someone or something) quickly and forcefully.” The reason “spanking” is used is to avoid calling it what it is. So, no, I completely disagree with you and so does the dictionary.

      “A lot of the Reboot Your Kids philosophies seem to revolve around treating kids as if they were the peers of the parents. In other words “you wouldn’t act like this to other adults, so why do it with your kids?” But this seems to ignore very obvious differences. Children are not adults, and different people CAN be treated differently based on status and role.”

      This has already been covered many times on the blog and the podcast. This isn’t an argument. Of course children aren’t adults. So, you’re going to go have to find a specific scenario where I said that and refute the scenario. I never said, for example, that you should give kids alcohol and cigarettes. I never said that you should expect them to drive themselves home at age 9. I said that in the context of respect for their HUMANITY, you should treat them like everyone else.

      Two adults with functional brains expect a modicum of civility and socially acceptable behaviors from each other. The relationship of adult to child is nothing like this. Children quite naturally will, and should, be treated different because they are learning, and need guidance, discipline, boundaries, and consequences for bad behavior.

      Treating someone differently doesn’t mean disrespecting them or violating their human rights. Again, you’re not making an argument, you’re just stating things that don’t really have anything to do with anything I’ve ever said.

      My point is, using a philosophy of “you don’t do this with adults, so why do it with kids?” is wrongheaded in my opinion. We do LOTS of things different with people in different statuses. I treat my wife different than other men’s wives. I treat my best friend different than I treat a cop, and different than I would treat the president if we met.

      But put this in context. You don’t slap your wife. You don’t bully your wife while you’re cordial with other people’s wives. At least I hope not. In the context of respect for one’s humanity, you don’t treat your wife any different than you treat someone else’s wife, do you? That’s the entire point. We’re not talking about superficial things, intelligence, etc. We’re talkign about humanity and moral behavior.

      When it comes to discipline models, if they are not approved by RYK, they are treated as if they can only be used when parents are out of control, emotional, reactionary, angry, etc etc.
      If I choose to spank as a consequence of a certain behavior, it has nothing to do with me being emotional, angry, out of control, or mindlessly “hitting” and fighting my child. It is quite simple, a parent sets a level-headed and clear behavior consequence. “If you do this thing, you will get spanked for it.” If the child does that thing, the child gets that consequence.

      But you can’t escape the hypocrisy of that. If you’ve ever told your child that hitting others is wrong, nothing else you ever say about moral beahvior should have any relevance to them. Furthermore, it doesn’t work. It’s not effective. Period. It’s been proven, by study after study, that it simply doesn’t work. Beyond that, it’s highly probable that it harms their psychological wellbeing. And you’re mis-stating our position: we talked on the last podcast about calmly spanking kids. It’s still wrong.

      How is that out of control, angry or having emotional fights with my child? It is just a method of teaching that there are consequences for bad behavior. I find it absurd that someone would think this simple method is just a “power play” of showing my strength. Like somehow I need to prove my might to a 4 year old?? Absurd.

      It doesn’t “teach” anything, actually.

      To spank a child’s bottom for running into the street is a tiny pain, a SMALL price to pay to help prevent a much BIGGER pain, like getting hit with a car.

      Wait a minute. You’re going to follow up all your talk about logical fallacies with THIS? This is a blatant eithor-or fallacy. You’re completely excluding the fact that my daughter knows not to run into the road and I’ve never had to hit her to get that message across. Come on man.

      • Zack

        Thanks for the reply. I appreciate that you are so convicted about these things and willing to defend them to random people on the Internet!
        [I don’t know how this edit box wants me to quote you so I’ll just put you in quotes.]

        Quote
        “Wait a minute. “Spanking” is equivocation. Hitting has an actual definition: “bring one’s hand or a tool or weapon into contact with (someone or something) quickly and forcefully.” The reason “spanking” is used is to avoid calling it what it is. So, no, I completely disagree with you and so does the dictionary.”

        Dictionaries and reality sometimes don’t align. The reason there are two words is because they mean two things. If you honestly think a parent spanking a bottom for appropriate reason, with an appropriate level of force is the same as gangsters clubbing you with a “weapon” “forcefully” to get your wallet, then that is the end of this conversation. Bottom line, words DO have meaning, Hitting is actually something people do when attacking each other. Spanking is a particular form of consequence used on a child. One gets you black eyes, broken teeth, broken bones, a hospital visit. The other gets 12 seconds of tears and a heartfelt conversation about wrong behavior. I really don’t think the two words are interchangeable in the least.

        You said:
        “This isn’t an argument. Of course children aren’t adults. So, you’re going to go have to find a specific scenario where I said that and refute the scenario.”

        I wasn’t referring to a specific scenario. Just the general philosophy that I hear many times along the lines of “since you don’t treat other adults this way, you shouldn’t treat children this way.” I challenge that idea. I don’t make it my job to correct the behavior of other adults, but it IS my job to do this with my children. Because THEIR bad behavior actually IS dehumanizing, which is why it needs correcting!

        I realize you are speaking in general terms about ones “humanity” and how we treat each other the same on that level. I don’t see how this changes a parent’s role in disciplining their children. Is it really breaking their humanity to have consequences for bad behavior? How can that be since our entire society, even the world, is based on that exact idea? There are things I can do at work that would bring down the consequence of getting fired. It’s the way of the world. I don’t behave a certain way, because someone else can bring down a consequence for it.
        We can run societies, even countries this way, but not raise our kids that way? How does that prepare them for the world?

        Quote:
        “But put this in context. You don’t slap your wife. You don’t bully your wife while you’re cordial with other people’s wives. At least I hope not. In the context of respect for one’s humanity, you don’t treat your wife any different than you treat someone else’s wife, do you? That’s the entire point. We’re not talking about superficial things, intelligence, etc. We’re talkign about humanity and moral behavior.”

        Yes, I treat my wife different, that was my point. I am more concerned with my wife’s behavior, attitude, our relationship, than I am with other people’s wives.
        Again this is the equivocation. Spanking as a consequence is not the moral equivalent to bullying, slapping people around, or going on power trips.
        For example, if I start to get more rude, my wife can correct me, we can work on our relationships to curb damaging behaviors and patterns. But if I get a little rude with someone else, they are not going to care that much to correct me and work on the relationship.

        Quote:
        But you can’t escape the hypocrisy of that. If you’ve ever told your child that hitting others is wrong, nothing else you ever say about moral beahvior should have any relevance to them. Furthermore, it doesn’t work. It’s not effective. Period. It’s been proven, by study after study, that it simply doesn’t work. Beyond that, it’s highly probable that it harms their psychological wellbeing. And you’re mis-stating our position: we talked on the last podcast about calmly spanking kids. It’s still wrong.

        I don’t buy any of that. There is no evidence proper spanking does any “damage” nor confuse kids about the difference between a spank, and getting in schoolyard fights. Maybe in the minds of philosophers, but in reality, the most spanked generations tend to be the most respectful.
        It’s not that complicated to me, kids know the difference between fighting and a parent spanking. It takes a philosopher to argue that somehow kids are too stupid, or parents are too stupid, to know the difference. A hit is not a hit is not a spank in different contexts.

        Yes I agree “hitting is wrong”, but this is not universal. I will most definitely “hit” someone if they attack my family, or I need to protect someone, or am attacked myself, etc etc.
        Spanking is not some kind of method of fighting. It’s a primal consequence to a very bad behavior and has nothing to do with power trips, being emotional, or out of control.
        Though I agree wholeheartedly is it an easy thing to abuse and use wrongly.

        Spanking properly is actually quite effective, has been used ever since humans have been having babies, and frankly, this generation of youth being raised without real consequences, basically child-run homes, has bread the most selfish, narcissistic, entitled, disrespectful generation of youth you could get. They have no sense of “words have meaning”, they have no sense of “actions have consequences”. And for certain, homes where the children are in charge, are not “influenced” in the least by their parents or elders.
        I’m not saying these are your methods, not by any stretch, but we live in an age where parents are now so scared to raise their own children deny them anything, bring ANY consequence at all to their behaviors and have nothing to resort to except bribery. Do this good thing and you get stuff.

        Quote:
        “It doesn’t “teach” anything, actually.”

        This is in context of spanking again. I would disagree based on experience. We spent 3 weeks attempting to “teach” our kid not to climb on something. Nothing worked. One light spank that didn’t even draw tears. Never climbed again. Sounds like they got the teaching then doesn’t it?

        Children behave on the lizard brain. They don’t understand something is “bad”, or “dangerous”, they have no experience to understand thinking that far ahead (until they are older anyway). Nothing works except a simple primal association between X behavior and a little pain. This IS well researched and true, a small bit of pain associated with a behavior will curb the behavior without them even thinking about it. It most definitely works.

        Quote:
        “Wait a minute. You’re going to follow up all your talk about logical fallacies with THIS? This is a blatant eithor-or fallacy. You’re completely excluding the fact that my daughter knows not to run into the road and I’ve never had to hit her to get that message across. Come on man.”

        I’m happy to hear that your 16 month old was so exceptionally smart that you were able to sit down and have philosophical exchanges about the pros and cons of running into the street. Sadly my kid was not blessed with that intelligence, and runs strait to the road as soon as they leave the door.
        I never “hit” my kid either, but spanking is very effective in some circumstances for some kids.

        I am very interested in these ideas and will certainly keep listening. But you might consider leaving philosophy and actually start telling these parents what the alternatives are.
        Quoting dictionaries and being philosophical and talking about humanitarian equality really isn’t helping any parent find better methods. We need some actual practical, actionable steps.
        I would appreciate an article “How to stop your kid from running into the street”. And “How to teach your kid not to climb on tall or dangerous furniture” so we can get out of the clouds and get the real scoop!

        Thanks

        • Kevin Geary

          Dictionaries and reality sometimes don’t align. The reason there are two words is because they mean two things. If you honestly think a parent spanking a bottom for appropriate reason, with an appropriate level of force is the same as gangsters clubbing you with a “weapon” “forcefully” to get your wallet, then that is the end of this conversation. Bottom line, words DO have meaning, Hitting is actually something people do when attacking each other. Spanking is a particular form of consequence used on a child. One gets you black eyes, broken teeth, broken bones, a hospital visit. The other gets 12 seconds of tears and a heartfelt conversation about wrong behavior. I really don’t think the two words are interchangeable in the least.

          Spanking is a form of hitting. You keep attempting to redefine the word hit. There is no hitting qualifier that insists hitting must result in black eyes, broken teeth, etc. That’s just you inflating things to mean whatever you want them to mean. Kids “hit” other kids and the result is “12 seconds of tears and learning a consequence” and guess what everyone tells them? “Hitting is wrong.” I’m sure you do too. Yet here you are completely redefining words to fit your agenda.

          I wasn’t referring to a specific scenario. Just the general philosophy that I hear many times along the lines of “since you don’t treat other adults this way, you shouldn’t treat children this way.” I challenge that idea. I don’t make it my job to correct the behavior of other adults, but it IS my job to do this with my children. Because THEIR bad behavior actually IS dehumanizing, which is why it needs correcting!

          This is a tired argument. If you had really read our articles, you would already know this >> http://rebootyourkids.com/sick-of-hearing/ — In fact, this addresses most of the arguments you’re making.

          I realize you are speaking in general terms about ones “humanity” and how we treat each other the same on that level. I don’t see how this changes a parent’s role in disciplining their children. Is it really breaking their humanity to have consequences for bad behavior? How can that be since our entire society, even the world, is based on that exact idea? There are things I can do at work that would bring down the consequence of getting fired. It’s the way of the world. I don’t behave a certain way, because someone else can bring down a consequence for it.

          You love this slight of hand straw man technique don’t you? We were just talking about spanking being a violation of a child’s humanity. So why are you now talking about consequences and getting fired at a job? Getting fired at a job is not a violation of anyone’s humanity. Consequences can be learned without people being hit. You just keep repeating the same fallacy over and over again.

          Spanking as a consequence is not the moral equivalent to bullying, slapping people around, or going on power trips.

          Says the perpetrator! You–the gigantic, powerful man–don’t get to decide what striking a defenseless human being means to THEM. If someone hits me, I get to determine what that means to me, not them.

          I don’t bend my wife over and strike her ass 5 times and then tell her to stop crying because “I didn’t hit you, I just disciplined you!” You’re the only one using equivocation. You’re using it to skirt the fact that you’re overpowering another human being and inflicting pain to train them like a dog. Anyone who understands even an inkling of child psychology knows it’s completely ineffective AND/OR emotionally and psychologically destructive. You don’t seem to care about that. All you seem to care about is justifying your actions.

          “Yes I agree “hitting is wrong”, but this is not universal. I will most definitely “hit” someone if they attack my family, or I need to protect someone, or am attacked myself, etc etc.”

          It IS universal. It’s called the Non Aggression Principal. Hitting, in your case, is a form of aggression. Hitting, in the case of self-defense, is NOT a form of aggression. That is very much a universal principle.

          Spanking properly is actually quite effective, has been used ever since humans have been having babies, and frankly, this generation of youth being raised without real consequences, basically child-run homes, has bread the most selfish, narcissistic, entitled, disrespectful generation of youth you could get.

          This myth has already been addressed in the article I linked to earlier. You’re arguing against yourself. The research says it’s not effective AND SO DOES SOCIETY. 90% of people TODAY admit to spanking their kids, so if society is as selfish, narcissistic, entitled, etc. as you say they are, then it’s not for a lack of spanking and spanking is doing nothing to correct it.

          We spent 3 weeks attempting to “teach” our kid not to climb on something. Nothing worked.

          You’re basically making every single one of the classic 12 mythical arguments against peaceful parenting. Go read the article I linked to, it’ll clear up a lot of things.

          Children behave on the lizard brain. They don’t understand something is “bad”, or “dangerous”, they have no experience to understand thinking that far ahead (until they are older anyway). Nothing works except a simple primal association between X behavior and a little pain.

          “Nothing works except…” — That seems like a pretty closed-minded absolute, no?

          Are you truly interested in alternatives or do just want to defend your current beliefs?

  • Jesse Taylor

    To the person that said “Spanking as a consequence is not the moral equivalent to […] slapping people around, or going on power trips”:

    … Not only is it the moral equivalent – it is the equivalent. Spanking IS slapping someone around (a defenseless child no less). And what could be considered more of a power trip than a full-grown adult physically assaulting a defenseless child?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

START YOUR REVOLUTIONARY PARENTING JOURNEY
Start With My Short Book, "Without a Fight," Free...
Discover the fundamentals of Revolutionary Parenting & get my best advice straight to your inbox...
SEND ME THE BOOK
No spam, ever.
LIMITED TIME FREEDOWNLOAD

GET STARTED WITH MY BOOK, "WITHOUT A FIGHT," TOTALLY FREE...

Learn the 5 principles of Revolutionary Parenting for ending the struggle for power and leading children authentically.
DOWNLOAD NOW

Conventional Discipline Is Harming Your Relationship With Yo…

by Kevin Geary time to read: 4 min
71