Tools for Building Discipline from the Inside Out

It’s finally finished! 

I’ve been working on an eBook, Parenting with Positive Guidance: Tools for Building Discipline from the Inside Out , and as is the case with a labor of love, it took a little longer than I had expected.  But after months of late nights at the computer, I think it’s done.  And I think it’s well worth the wait.  I hope you will too! 

Here’s an excerpt from one of the chapters:

Dr. Clayton M. Christensen, a distinguished professor at Harvard Business School, and father of five, correlated models for a successful business and models for a successful life in a popular article in the Harvard Business Review, entitled, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” Comparing managing a company to managing a family, he wrote about a model used in business called “Tools of Cooperation”. I’m no business expert myself, but Christensen’s description of what he calls “power tools” (threats, punishment, and coercion) and its correlation from business to family life seems spot-on. He explains that when managers find too much friction between themselves and the members of their business organization, they turn to these “power tools” to essentially strong-arm their associates into complying. He further notes that we as parents often revert to these tactics as well.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, we have a few tools around our house and we’ve probably had more than our fair share of home improvement adventures. And I’ll be the first to say I would much rather hang shingles with a nail gun and an air compressor than sit on my roof top for six months while I tap in tiny nails with a hammer. At first glance, the term “power tool” seems like a superior alternative, but we soon see that stronger and faster doesn’t always translate into better results when working with children. Christensen goes on:

But there comes a point during the teen years when power tools no longer work. At that point parents start wishing that they had begun working with their children at a very young age to build a culture at home in which children instinctively behave respectfully toward one another, obey their parents, and choose the right thing to do. Families have cultures, just as companies do.

“Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently.

“If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture – and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.”

The tools I’ve written about here are very simple. They may not be easy, but they are very simple. Too often parents resort to using the “power tools” Christensen spoke of as a type of reactive parenting. They get fast results with these strong tools, but they soon find that these tools eventually dull as children quit responding, or they finally realize that they were using a tool far too forceful for the delicate material they were working with and their child’s self-esteem lies shattered in their wake. If you want to change a child’s immediate actions, the power tools may work. But if you want to influence a child’s heart, you need a toolbox full of simple tools and an intentional positive culture.

Building a Positive Culture
A few years ago, my husband and I built a house. For months we were consumed with drafts of blueprints, lists of subcontractors, and so many paint samples I thought I had gone color-blind. Somewhere in that process a thought struck me. Was I putting as much care and planning into creating our home as I was into creating our house? Just as a house cannot be built by happenstance, a home with a positive culture can not be built without thought and careful planning.

When you first think about creating discipline in the home, you may think of the rules you need to enforce. But to build true discipline, the kind that comes from the inside out, rule-setting is not as important as culture-creating. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have rules, but there’s no way to have a specific rule for every decision your child will make. Those must be based on a broader culture of values. Value statements jointly created that help them define appropriate behavior for themselves. What they can do, not what they can not do.

When you create a culture for your family, you set the tone in your home. You define what your family values, what is expected, and what is hoped for. When there is a strong positive culture in the family, children can better choose for themselves based on what they value, rather than looking at a multiplicity of rules for a loophole. It’s the same principle as Tool #3 – Say What You Need to See. Stating clearly and positively what you want children to do will be more effective than trying to list every rule they shouldn’t break.

So how do you create a positive culture?

Well, you can read more about that soon!  Parenting with Positive Guidance: Tools for Building Discipline from the Inside Out will be available here later this week, with a special discount for my favorite readers.  (That would be you of course!)

I also have to take a few lines of this post to thank my many wonderful friends who have graciously served as editors, reading, tweaking, proofreading, giving feedback, and building confidence.  This project would not have been the same without you and I thank you.  I’m very lucky to have such great friends!

Top photo by Vangelis Thomaidis.



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