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Tough Love

Sometimes children have been so spoiled, neglected, or abused either verbally or physically, that they don't respond to normal methods of discipline. Other times they are simply very strong-willed and determined. Dr. James Dobsen, author, lecturer, and radio show host, has published an outstanding book called "The Strong-Willed Child," that tells numerous ways for adults to deal with stubbornness without being abusive. His bottom line is that kids thrive on discipline when it is properly used -- discipline, not abuse (no hitting or yelling). When kids are given limits and boundaries and expected to stay within them, they know you care.

Tough love is when your toughness matches the stubbornness of the child in question. It requires consistency and follow-through. For example, when children are given loving instructions and they fail to follow them, it's time to take away TV, Nintendo, or computer privileges until compliance has been reached. Always make sure they complete the task before they return to play.

With older kids who aren't following rules about curfews, use of the car, or proper public behavior it may be necessary to confiscate the car keys for a day or two, or revoke other privileges which mean a lot to them. They need to learn that cars, computers, video games, movies, etc. are privileges, not rights, and they need to be earned through responsible behavior.

In extreme cases where they might be violations of the law, instead of paying bail and taking Jr. home, ask the judge in private if he can arrange for you child to have a supervised visit to the jail and talk to prisoners so Jr. can see what he is missing. Or ask the judge to let Jr. perform community service instead of jail-time so that he suffers actual consequences for his actions instead of just being excused for a first offense, as if first offenses are not a big concern.

If your child is attending parties where alcohol is served and not being responsible about driving, show him/her you care. Revoke driving privileges. Teach your child that drinking and driving don't mix. Teach him by example, not just words.

Copyright Adrienne Potter. Reprinted with permission.

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