Family rules: Speak softly when wielding the discipline stick

Oct 1 2012 - 2:18pm

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first installment of Utah Families, a twice-monthly column by faculty members of the Weber State University department of child and family studies. Members of the department will offer practical information on topics related to families and children.

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It was the typical parent-of-a-teen dilemma. Should I call for emergency help, get in the car and go searching, or just keep pacing the floor while the wee hours of the morning ticked away? My young son, just 13, was out with older friends, and it was way past curfew.

Family rules were swimming in my head. Did my rules allow me to "blast" this child right off the face of the Earth as soon as he appeared? In my efforts to be the "authoritative" parent -- the one whose rules are clear and associated with well-understood consequences -- where had I gone wrong?

As I paced the floor, I rehearsed my speech. I would be angry. Emotional honesty is critical. But I also felt that it was important to find out what was going on. "Seek first to understand" is one of Covey's habits for effective relationships, and it was one of my primary rules for successful family relationships. I kept rehearsing.

The young man finally came home, quietly slipping in the back door. I met him, hands on hips. Yes, I was angry, just as he had suspected I would be. But my where-have-you-been voice was not too loud (actually, not real soft, either), as I expressed frustration, fear and sleeplessness.

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