I believe that children should be well-behaved.
Most parents, of course, want more for their children than just good behavior. We want them to become caring and responsible adults.
Still, more often than not, children who are cooperative and respect adult authority are also happy and confident children. They are able to bounce back from disappointments and frustrations, sustain effort on difficult tasks and get along with their peers. And the parents of well-behaved children are, undoubtedly, happier parents.
By all accounts, modern American children are very poorly behaved. Why is this so? And what can we do about it?
Many parents (and some parent advisors) believe that our children behave badly because we allow them to — that we are afraid to insist on obedience and respect. Critics of contemporary family life argue that we have turned our homes into “little democracies” in which children “determine their own upbringing” and have the right to argue about everything. As a group, the critics concur: Parents should be less afraid to say “No.”
For some families, this is sound advice. In my experience, for most families, it is not. Saying no, although necessary, is a small part of successful discipline.
Every week, parents tell me, “I’ve taken away all his privileges and things are just getting worse. He’s even more rude and disrespectful,” or “I tell him ‘No’ all the time, but he still doesn’t listen.”
These families are locked in vicious cycles of negative interactions. Then, as these cycles escalate, parents feel increasingly justified in their criticism and disapproval. And kids, for their part, feel increasingly justified in their resentment and defiance.