Barbara Coloroso

There is one thing you and I as parents cannot do, not do we want to do if we really think about it, and that’s control our children’s will–that spirit that lets them be themselves apart from you and me. They are not ours to possess, control, manipulate, or even to make mind.

Odors from decaying food wafting through the air when the door is opened, colorful mold growing between a wet gym uniform and thedamp carpet underneath, and the complete supply of bath towels scattered throughout the bedroom can become wonderful opportunities to help your teenager learn once again that the art of living in a community requires compromise, negotiation, and consensus.

I believe that if we are to survive as a planet, we must teach this next generation to handle their own conflicts assertively andnonviolently. If in their early years our children learn to listen to all sides of the story, use their heads and then their mouths, and come up with a plan and share, then, when they become our leaders, and some of them will, they will have the tools to handle global problems and conflict.

Every time a child organizes and completes a chore, spends some time alone without feeling lonely, loses herself in play for an hour, or refuses to go along with her peers in some activity she feels is wrong, she will be building meaning and a sense of worth for herself and harmony in her family.

Compliant children are very easily led when they are young, because they thrive on approval and pleasing adults. They are just aseasily led in their teen years, because they still seek the same two things: approval and the pleasing their peers. Strong-willed children are never easily led by anybody–not by you, but also not by their peers. So celebrate your child’s strength of will throughout the early years…and know that the independent thinking you are fostering will serve him well in the critical years to come.

Our goal as a parent is to give life to our children’s learning–to instruct, to teach, to help them develop self-discipline–an ordering of the self from the inside, not imposition from the outside. Any technique that does not give life to a child’s learning and leave a child’s dignity intact cannot be called discipline–it is punishment, no matter what language it is clothed in.