Dec 172015 6 Responses

Don’t Gang Tackle Your Kids

Discipline is a dangerous game. It’s necessary for good parenting, but no one is a naturally good disciplinarian, and when done poorly, it can result in great harm for a child.

No area of parenting requires more understanding, humility, and training than learning how to discipline a child. A parent must continually be learning and re-learning effective techniques to positively discipline a child in each stage of life. (See: A Parent’s Most Effective Tool in Discipline)

One mistake adults (not just parents) make in disciplining children is the tendency we have to gang tackle. In football, gang tackling is a coach’s dream. When a runner is stopped, every player converges on the ball and plays a part in taking down the runner. Effective defenses regularly gang tackle. An offensive player isn’t just brought to the ground by one player. Instead, they are pushed back or driven down by 2, 3, 4, or 5 players.

What makes for a great play in football is a horrible form of parenting and discipline.

When a child makes a mistake in the presence of adults, there is a tendency to gang tackle the child. Instead of one parent (or one adult) confronting the behavior, describing what is wrong, defining what is right, and determining the consequences, multiple adults engage the discipline process. One parent calls attention to the child, another parent joins the conversation, and then grandparents or other adults interject in the conversation. (See: How to Properly Dose Discipline)

To adults the process seems innocuous, but to kids it can create undue shame and embarrassment. It blows a situation out of proportion and puts a child’s bad behavior in a public spotlight.

A simple rule can prevent injury. When possible, only one adult should discipline a child. If grandma corrects a behavior, mom stays quiet. If dad sees a problem at the family get-together, every other adult stays out of dad’s way as he disciplines the child. If one teacher calls out a behavior, other teachers simply listen. One problem, one child, one adult.

Of course there are exceptions. There are times in which parents must co-parent. If curfew is broken, mom and dad may jointly discuss a punishment. If mom feels dad it losing his cool, she might ask if he needs help. But for the most part, one parent gives the other parent space to discipline the problem unless they are invited into the process.

And outside of moms and dads, extended friends and family need to remain quiet or focus on something else while a parent disciplines a child. While it might feel useful to validate the punishment or point out some other consequence of the action, it is not productive to the discipline process.

While we shouldn’t gang tackle our kids with discipline, it’s perfectly acceptable to gang up on them with praise. Whenever one adult praises a child for an action, everyone can join the chorus of praise. When a child makes good choices, it is wise to put them in the spotlight for those choices. However, when they make bad choices, they should not be on stage to receive their punishment. Discipline individually and in private; praise as a group and in public.

There is one instance where I will break my own rule. As a father, I will interject myself in the discipline process if one of my children is disrespecting my wife. I won’t take over the discipline for the action my wife was correcting, but I will oversee the correction for the wrongdoing of failing to respect my wife. Respect of their mom is a clear house rule which cannot be violated. (See: Obey Your Mother, Respect My Wife)

No family gang tackles their kids on purpose. It is a natural byproduct of a loving, engaged family. While well-intended, it is not useful. A better way is to freely praise children for good choices, but privately and individually discipline children when they make bad choices.

6 Responses to Don’t Gang Tackle Your Kids
  1. Vickie Ellison Reply

    Great article Kevin. I appreciate this one a lot.

  2. Jodi Reply

    I am so glad i stumbled upon your site for marriage articles and ones pertaining to children. We have 4 kids and things are not always on same page and i love seeing all the advice. Thank you! Ps are you in fla by any chance for counseling?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you Jodi. Sadly I’m not in Florida although we visit often. I’d love to book a couple of marriage nights in Florida in the coming year.

  3. […] It’s true in officiating and it’s true in parenting. (See: Don’t Gang Tackle Your ... kevinathompson.com/parent-for-them-not-you
  4. Jeffrey Moshe Reply

    Thanks!!! Dealing with this right now.

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