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"How do I make my grandchild good?"

Discipline: Setting your rules

Chapter excerpt

Daniel has wealthy parents, but they are nearly bankrupt when it comes to controlling their children. Daniel, the eldest, is Exhibit A. Daniel’s mother took him and his sister on a weekend trip to the family’s opulent vacation home. As they hurtled down the freeway, 5-year-old Daniel suddenly unbuckled his seat belt. He grabbed his mom’s cell phone and started playing with it. “Please put that down,” his mom said. Daniel completely ignored the request. “Please put that down,” his mom repeated, to which Daniel replied, “No.” Mom paused. “OK, you can use it to call your dad. Now please buckle your seat belt.”

Daniel ignored both directives and proceeded to play video games on the phone.

When they stopped for gas a few hours later, Daniel crept out the window and climbed over the roof of the car. Horrified, his mother commanded, “Stop that!” Daniel replied, “You stop it!” and crawled down the windshield. With Daniel back in the car, the family drove on. Daniel found the cell phone again; this time he threw it on the floor and broke it.

As this little Napoleon grew older, Daniel saw just how easily he could ignore his family’s social boundaries, then any social boundaries. He got used to demanding his way everywhere. He started hitting kids at school who did not pay attention to him. He developed a sulfurous relationship with authority. He stole things from classmates. Eventually, his moral clutch slipped completely, and he stabbed a little girl in the cheek with a pencil. He was expelled from school. As of this writing, the family is embroiled in a lawsuit, as is the school.

Daniel was a behavioral—one is tempted to say moral—wreck.

Though it is easy to be a back-seat parent, each year there seems to be a bumper crop of out-of-control kids and helpless parents. No loving parent wants to raise a Daniel. In this chapter, we’ll talk about how to avoid doing so. You can create moral maturity in most children. And, perhaps surprisingly, there is neuroscience behind it.


Practical tip #30: Videotape yourself

Most parents keep a running documentary about the early lives of their children. Indeed, the generation coming will be the most filmed in history. What if you taped yourself parenting your little one? Especially for the tough spots. You could alternate with your spouse on taping duties and try to analyze what you’re doing right and wrong. Think “Supernanny.” It may give you a clearer idea of your effectiveness as parents.

pregnant iconMoral baby rules

  • Firm discipline with a warm heart
See all rules (PDF)


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