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2010-04-24 / Church

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Anxiety About Children’s Future Can Spoil The Present

Question: My children are still
young, and they are doing fine
now, but I worry a lot about the
adolescent years that lie ahead.
I’ve seen other parents go
through some pretty terrible
things when their teenagers began
to rebel. How can I help my sons
avoid that turmoil ten years from
now?
Dr. Dobson: The apprehension
that you describe is well-founded,
and many parents feel something
similar today. The most important
suggestion I can make is for you
to redouble your efforts to build
good relationships with your kids
while they are young. That is the
key to surviving the adolescent
years. If they emerge from
childhood with doubts about
whether you really love and care
for them, anything is possible
during the turbulent teens.
Boundaries, restrictions and
threats will be no match for
adolescent anger, frustration and
resentment. As author Josh
McDowell said, “Rules without
relationship lead to rebellion.” He
is right. That’s why parents can’t
afford to get preoccupied with
business and other pursuits that
interfere with the task of raising
children. Kids are young for such
a brief period. During that window
of opportunity, they must be given
priority.
Once you’ve done what you
can to lay the proper foundation, I
urge you to approach your
parenting duties with confidence.
Anxiety about the future is risky
in itself. It can make parents
tentative and insecure in dealing
with their youngsters. They don’t
dare cross them or deny their
wishes for fear of being hated in
the teen years. Teenagers pick up
those vibes intuitively, which often
generates disrespect in return.
Don’t make that mistake. You have
been placed in a position of
authority over your young
children. Lead them with confidence
and care.

Question: If it is natural for a
toddler to break all the rules,
should he be disciplined for
routine misbehavior?
Dr. Dobson: Toddlers get into
trouble most frequently because
of their natural desire to touch,
bite, taste, smell and break
everything within their grasp.
These are normal and healthy
reactions that should not be
inhibited. When, then, should
they be subjected to mild
discipline? When they openly
defy their parents’ very clear
commands! When he runs the
other way when called, purposely
slams his milk glass on the floor,
dashes into the street when being
told to stop, screams and throws
a tantrum at bedtime, or hits his
friends. These behavior patterns
should be discouraged. Even in
these situations, however, severe
punishment is unwarranted. A firm
rap on the fingers or a few minutes
sitting on a chair will usually
convey the same message as
convincingly. Spankings should
be reserved for a child’s moments
of greatest antagonism, usually

occurring after the second, third
or fourth birthdays.
Without watering down
anything I have written about
discipline, it should also be
understood that I am a firm believer
in the judicious use of grace (and
humor) in parent-child relationships.
In a world in which children
are often pushed to grow up too
fast, their spirits can dry out like
prunes beneath the constant gaze
of critical eyes. It is refreshing to
see parents temper their harshness
with a measure of “unmerited
favor.” Likewise, there’s nothing
that buoys every member of a
family quite like laughter and a
lighthearted spirit in the home.
Dr. Dobson is founder and
Chairman Emeritus of the
nonprofit organization Focus on
the Family, Colorado Springs,
Colo. 80995
(www.focusonthefamily.org).

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