Children require structure and predictable rules. Above all, they require attention. Back in the day, parents bothered their children when they came home from school. Some parents may not have known how to do long division. They may not have known how to write or how to construct a business letter. But they knew how to prod their children because they wanted them to be something.

Parents back then might have said, "Well, what did you do today in geometry?" They may have thought isosceles was a guy from the Bible and that a hypotenuse was a big ugly animal in Africa, but they knew their kids. They would make us go upstairs, get the book, bring it down, sit with them, and go over it. And even if they didn't understand, they'd pretend to. They pretended to because they knew kids needed an education. That need hasn't changed.

Share your experience.
A wise parent or caregiver shares her wisdom. She tells children about useful social skills as well as about the need to be responsible and orderly. A child who is disciplined will be more obedient and also more organized as a student. He'll do better in school and in life. Of course he will!

Educate your children.
Good discipline is key to supporting the learning and education that our children need. Kids do better academically and are less likely to drop out if they take more responsibility for their school success. Self-disciplined people are more likely to succeed at whatever they do.

Distinguish discipline from punishment.
This is not just a word game. Discipline and punishment really are different things. Discipline may include punishment but aims for a much higher goal. Discipline includes other ways to shape a child's behavior for the long term, not just for the short term. The aim of good discipline is to teach children self-control and the difference between right and wrong, which becomes part of their inner character.

Behave the way you want your children to behave.
Children learn discipline in ways that parents need to be aware of. For instance, children will learn right and wrong by watching what their parents do. If parents lie, the kids will. If parents use racial slurs, so will the kids. If parents use violence at home, the kids will use it in the streets—the same with alcohol and drug abuse and cigarettes. This stuff starts early. We know a kid whose first words were "lousy bum," and he used them—echoing his old man—to address an Eagles wide receiver who dropped the ball in the end zone.

You parents and caregivers who don't want the kids to do these things, don't do them yourselves. That's the first step. If you have other bad habits, like being sloppy or late, don't expect the kids to be neat or on time. You can say, "Do what I say, not what I do," all you want, but when you turn your head, the kids will do what you do. Actions speak louder than words. Whatever behaviors and attitudes you want for the children, you'd better model them in your life.
Excerpted from Come On People by Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint, MD, Copyright © 2007 by William H. Cosby Jr. and Alvin F. Poussaint, MD. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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