PracticalDad:  Discipline Tips From Tony Soprano

Sometimes you can find instruction in the oddest places and I’ve noted that Tony Soprano provides some valuable insights for fathers.  Not in regards to the physical side since what he’s got to offer is unacceptable.  However, he does have something beneficial ot say about getting someone’s attention and compliance.

Tony – and others like Don Vito Corleone – understand the value of leverage.  Like the physics principle, leverage is used to multiply an existing force to provide the maximum output.  It’s a tool that’s used to overcome inertia and cause a motionless object to move; the lever can be a simple block of wood or it can be far more sophisticated.

My wife and I have occasionally disagreed about whether there are moments in child-rearing when it simply comes down to a contest of wills.  I believe that while a parent shouldn’t have to go head-to-head with the  youngster, there are moments when the child is simply going to have to knuckle under and do what he’s been told.  And in these moments, when other means fail, it’s helpful to know what leverage is available to insure that the child obeys.  It’s not pleasant, but it is necessary.

What is it that matters to the child?  Is it a toy or an activity?  When you realize what it is and decide that you have to use it as a lever, there are several things to consider.

  • Is there another alternative to the situation?  If the item is a toy that provides quiet entertainment and you’re looking at an event at which the kid’s liable to be bored, are you creating later problems by removing what will help occupy him?
  • Has there been sufficient warning of what could be lost if he doesn’t comply?
  • Does the child truly understand what’s at stake if he doesn’t comply?  It does no good to make an offer he can’t refuse if it’s one that he can’t understand.
  • Is the consequence commensurate with the situation?  If it’s a privilege or toy, is it going to come back again or is it gone forever?
  • Will the child have the opportunity to earn it back afterwards?  Depending on the situation, we’ve sometimes allowed the possibility of earning it back.  Frankly however, it also depends on how torqued I am.

Leverage isn’t the be-all and end-all of disciplinary methods and it’s not one that has to see the light of day every time the kids are out of control.  But it is another tool that can go into your pocket for use when you deem it necessary.


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