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The Police Officer Approach to Discipline

There are usually as many discipline techniques as there are moms and dads. Correction methods for kids concerning misbehavior, offensive comments, and family rule infractions usually range between physical-abuse to no parental involvement. Each parent has his or her own style, methods, and attitudes about discipline.

Imagine videotaping moms and dads as they communicate with their kids throughout the week. Reviewing all of the tapes, we may find a number of parenting behaviors and discipline styles.

Some of those discipline techniques might include:
  • Assigning time-outs or isolating the youth in their room
  • Calling the youngster names or making derogatory comments
  • Demanding information about the misbehavior – "Why did you hit Tommy?"
  • Fortune telling – "You're going to end up in prison if you keep acting this way!"
  • Grounding the youngster
  • Humiliating the youngster in front of other kids
  • Ignoring all misbehavior that is not life-threatening
  • Isolating and terrifying the youngster – locking them in a closet
  • Laughing about the misbehavior
  • Lectures about genetics – "Stop acting like your father!"
  • Lecturing the youngster about the misbehavior
  • Making the youngster feel guilty – "You're the reason I'm sick all the time!"
  • Scolding and yelling at the youngster
  • Slapping the youngster in the face
  • Spanking the youngster on the buttocks
  • Striking the youngster with a belt, paddle, or other object
  • Threatening disciplines such as grounding, spanking, etc.
  • Threatening time travel – "I should knock you into next week!"
  • Warning the youngster that the next misbehavior will bring serious consequences

The methods of discipline are exclusive to each mother/father and each family. In certain two-parent families, both mom and dad might use the identical methods. In other two-parent families, the techniques employed by the mother and father might be totally different, compelling the kids to choose discipline by one parent and developing fear of the other parent. When moms and dads are divorced or when several residences are involved, parenting methods may differ with each location.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Where did we develop our current method of discipline? Generally, we use the technique that has been present in our childhood environment. If our moms and dads yelled and screamed – we'll likely shout and scream at our kids. It's really no secret that physically and/or emotionally abused kids frequently turn out to be emotionally and physically abusive moms and dads. Some discipline techniques appear to be favored in certain households, as if the strategy and technique was authorized for use in that family. I have noticed some families have approved hostile and violent parenting techniques like face slapping, paddling with switches/belts/boards, or injury-producing bodily assaults. Grown-ups using these techniques routinely have a reason such as "I was brought up that way and I turned out o.k."

The techniques of discipline at home have a very powerful impact on later adolescent and adult behavior and mind-set. We can generate specific behaviors and attitudes in our kids by the discipline techniques we use in the household. More often than not, the mother/father may be unaware they're generating these behaviors and attitudes as they are employing methods that have been accepted in their household for decades. Through the years, I have seen moms and dads mention the correction of their youngster and the techniques used without any sense that the technique could be abusive or psychologically harmful. I've heard "I told him I'll kill myself if he doesn't straighten up" or "When she said that word I busted her in the mouth and she didn't say it again!"

Without question, all kids will be requiring discipline. This is an important part of the personality and emotional growth of the youngster. Even so, some techniques tend to be more emotionally and socially healthy than others. Some techniques may alter the path of a youngster's character – once and for all.

In the interest of rearing socially and psychologically healthy kids, you should use the most beneficial techniques that have the fewest negative side effects. The Police Officer Approach to Discipline is an attempt to provide guidelines for better discipline methods. This approach may also help moms and dads understand how using poor discipline methods can damage the positive attitude and behavior of a youngster.

The Police Officer Approach—

The Police Officer Approach uses the discipline methods of the adult world with kids. Within the adult world, improper forms of discipline tend to be legally corrected via legal actions, civil suits, media exposure, etc. Authority figures who correct adults - such as law enforcement personnel, job supervisors, government representatives – have strict guidelines regarding how corrections are applied and in what situations. Because of this, the adult world doesn't use many discipline techniques that might be emotionally harmful, at least for minor crimes. Furthermore, the adult world has similar regulations in most situations – correction at the job, in the neighborhood, in social situations, etc.

The adult world also consists of an element of fairness by concentrating on suitable discipline and consequences. The criminal justice system actually ranks offenses by their seriousness or level of victimization. Corrections and punishments used for murderers can't be used for those who steal gas from your vehicle. In a nutshell, the degree of punishment fits the degree of the criminal offense in the adult world.

Methods of discipline employed by moms and dads would not be accepted in the adult world. Extreme and harmful parenting methods are used with kids as the kids have little ability to exercise their constitutional rights. They cannot challenge their consequences and cannot pay for a lawyer.

Let's think of the consequences of employing some parenting techniques in the adult world:
  • If your supervisor is tardy for work, try taking away his/her automobile for a week.
  • When a coworker fails to submit a report by the due date, begin sobbing and telling them "You're the main reason I never get a promotion!"
  • When a coworker uses a profanity – try sticking a bar of soap in his or her mouth.
  • When your coworker "talks back" and disagrees with you, slap them on the mouth.

In the adult world, these coworker behaviors could be corrected, but by way of a procedure that is purely business. This "strictly business" approach can be found in just about all businesses and functions in the community too. In the United States, for instance, sticking a bar of soap in someone's mouth may find you arrested for assault.

Does using an adult-world approach to the correction and discipline of kids make sense? Let's evaluate the data (all psychiatrists do this by the way). According to current numbers, 5 % of kids have experienced extreme physical maltreatment. Data on psychological abuse tend to be more difficult to acquire. Nevertheless, a Bureau of Justice Statistics 1999 report entitled "Contacts between Police and the Public" estimates that less than half of one percent of an estimated 44 million individuals who had face-to-face contact with the police were threatened or actually experienced force. Notably, those face-to-face contacts took place because the individual was linked to a criminal offense of some kind – while a youngster could be disciplined for non-crimes like spilling milk, back-talking, homework problems, etc. Obviously, fewer kids will be physically or psychologically mistreated if we follow a law enforcement design.

The Police Department can be used to illustrate professionalism and reliability in discipline. There might be other examples of professional law enforcement in your area. The State Police in the United States offers us a model of responding to problems with behavior or rule violations.

The Police Officer Approach is strictly business, not emotional or reactive, and corrects behavior through consequence (the fine) and bringing attention to the incorrect behavior. If you're racing on the road and therefore are stopped by the State Police, after viewing your license and registration, the discussion should go something similar to this:

State Police: "Mr. Smith, you were clocked going 70 in a 55 mile per hour zone."

The police officer just informed you of the inappropriate behavior as well as the legal and expected behavior.

State Police: "The fine for speeding in this state is $80.00. Please sign this ticket."

The police officer has informed you of the consequence (fine) for that crime.

State Police: "Instructions for paying the fine are included on the rear of your copy. Have a great day."

The police officer continues to be courteous and businesslike. He doesn't ask the reason why you were speeding. He doesn't attempt to help you understand the reason behind speeding laws in that state. He doesn't insult you with "How can you be so dumb?" or "Where did you get this clunker of an automobile?"

The Police Officer Approach involves three simple steps:

Step 1: Determine the offense or appropriate behavior.
Step 2: Advise the violator of the consequence or fine.
Step 3: Stay courteous and calm.

When used with kids, and adults for that matter, the Police Officer Approach works well in decreasing hatred, rage, and inappropriate behavior. The fine for speeding will not force the violator into legal bankruptcy, will sting in the wallet, but isn't intolerable. It is also difficult to disregard. The Police Officer Approach has been discovered to be extremely effective in the adult world. If we pay a credit card bill late, we are "fined" a late fee as a reminder that prompt payment is required. If our behavior isn't corrected and we are continuously late in our payment or fail to make a payment, the "fine" increases to notifications to the credit bureau or eventual repossession of our big-screen television. Methods of correction in adulthood seek to provide a punishment that is appropriate for the violation as well as avoiding punishments that are extra, excessive, or damaging.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

The Police Officer Approach is a technique of using the adult world approach with kids. It reduces the anxiety and frustration often related to parental discipline in both the kids and the moms and dads. By identifying the incorrect behavior, providing an appropriate fine or punishment, and maintaining a calm, business-like interaction with the youngster, we decrease the misbehavior while continuing our good relationship with the youngster. An example:

Mother: "James, you shoved your brother and you know we don't allow shoving and hitting in this family. I want you to go to your room for fifteen minutes. When your time is up you can join the rest of us and watch television. We'll see you in fifteen minutes."

How Parenting Techniques Produce Misbehavior in Kids—

The Police Officer Approach, like all types of parental discipline, could very easily be changed in a manner that would produce poor attitudes, additional misbehavior, and character changes in adults and kids. Modifications in the laws of your state or country might drastically change your personal behavior when disciplined. Let's investigate the way you could alter the laws for law enforcement and actually generate bad behavior in adults. For example:

Excessive Fines-

Changes in the Law: A new law permits the cop to fine a speeding motorist $1,000 for every mile over the posted speeding limit. Traveling ten miles over the posted speed limit is now a $10,000 fine for instance.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: The majority of adults, realizing that the fine is excessive and harmful to their financial situation, might attempt to avoid or out-run the police officer. If apprehended, they might lie or do anything in their power to prevent that ticket and fine.

Discussion: It is uncommon that a routine speeder tries to avoid an $85.00 fine unless the speeder has additional outstanding warrants for another offense. Once the fine is suitable for the crime, mature adults have a tendency to accept their obligation and the fine for the crime. In kids, excessive fines like physical punishment or extreme grounding produce kids who deny their behavior and/or lie about their involvement. When punishment and correction are "short and sweet", there is little reason to avoid both personal responsibility and the punishment. The youngster feels no need to lie and risk another fine or punishment.

Unpredictable Fines-

Changes in the Law: A new law permits the Police Officer to generate his/her own fine for the crime. The new law makes the fine for speeding totally unpredictable as the police officer is permitted to give a warning, a fine anywhere from 1 dollar to $50,000 or to physically attack or even shoot you then and there.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: If arrested, unpredictable fines prompt the violator to manipulate – attempting to obtain the lowest fine possible from the police officer. The speeder might beg, weep, and declare to have a brain tumor, or threaten with a lawyer.

Discussion: Unpredictable fines prompt the youngster to be a con artist and/or manipulator. The youngster will attempt to manipulate to obtain the lowest fine or punishment possible. When a mother/father gives a five-minute time-out for an offense, then six-month grounding for a similar offense, the youngster attempts to control the fine. Consistency in fines can avoid manipulation in both law enforcement and parenting situations.

Canceled Fines-

Changes in the Law: A new law permits the Police Officer to allocate a fine/punishment during the time of arrest, then call and cancel the fine the next day.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: When a fine is terminated, the speeder could be more prone to continue speeding as he/she feels the fines will not be applied. In criminal justice systems, it is common to see career crooks that have a long list of arrests followed by "dismissed" and "probation". Canceling fines and consequences can lead to repeated offenses.

Discussion: When kids are punished/disciplined, then "bailed out" of the punishment, they are likely to continue their misbehavior, because they never endure the consequences. Kids that are often rescued from the penalties of their conduct develop the feeling that the rules do not affect them and may be ignored…as absolutely nothing happens. These kids frequently increase their misbehavior, feeling they're not going to be held accountable for their actions. They eventually reach a severity where rescue is no longer possible. This situation is often found in adolescents who are given probation for several criminal offenses by local courts, being suddenly shocked when the judge/court assigns prison time. Short, appropriate fines and corrections do not need to be canceled in parenting.

Guilty Fines-

Changes in the Law: A new law permits the Police Officer to punish your family for your misbehavior and/or offenses. The cop assigns the fine to your family without cost to you.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: In psychologically healthy individuals, this fine method creates remorse and anxiety. The helplessness of the scenario could also create depression and low self-esteem.

Discussion: Moms and dads often use guilt to manage their kids. The youngster is told their misbehavior is the reason for personal, family or marital troubles. Misbehaving kids are held responsible for a divorce, sickness in the mother/father, a lack of employment, the family financial situation, etc. "You're the reason nobody in this house is happy!" Moms and dads have been known to threaten suicide in an effort to emotionally punish or control their kids. This method of discipline produces guilt-ridden kids. In some cases, however, excessive use of guilt creates a youngster (then an adult) that is emotionally numb to the feelings of others.

Harassing Cop-

Changes in the Law: A new law permits the Police Officer to harass those who have received a previous ticket for speeding. Once receiving a ticket, the Police Officer begins to stop you on a regular basis to remind you that you're a speeder, although you're traveling the speed limit every day. You receive a lecture regarding speeding with each stop.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: The citizen develops resentment and animosity toward the cop and toward authority figures on the whole. He/she begins avoiding highways/roads assigned to that police officer.

Discussion: Harassment by a mother/father generates kids who are bitter and resentful. They feel unjustly disciplined. If reminded frequently, they attempt to avoid interactions with the mother or father and ultimately avoid being in the same area with the parent. This is a typical experience when the misbehavior generates financial hardships or public humiliation for the moms and dads. In certain situations, the parent is psychologically traumatized to the point that the physical presence of the youngster/adolescent brings up the psychological trauma. This scenario is harmful for both parent and youngster.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Insulting Cop-

Changes in the Law: A new law enables the Police Officer to insult and threaten anybody stopped for speeding. A routine speeding ticket is accompanied by a string of personal insults and threats.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: Most individuals can accept their faults and fines as well – if the consequence is suitable for the crime. Insults and threats, however, tend to be more damaging than the fines. Everybody becomes defensive when threatened.

Discussion: Irritated adults make irritated moms and dads. When correcting a youngster, moms and dads tend to be furious or annoyed by the circumstance, creating the temptation to "jab" at the youngster with insults, even though the consequence has ended. Envision working in a job where your boss, often in the presence of your co-workers, lets you know how ignorant you are every time you make a mistake. Insults tend to be more harmful than fines or consequences and create adults and kids that are indignant, resentful, and have low motivation. The principle behind any parenting style would be to correct, not emotionally hurt, our kids.

The Angry Cop-

Changes in the Situation: The Police Officer has just pulled you over for speeding. In your rear-view mirror you observe him to be furious, cursing, clinching his fists, and walking toward you as if he or she is likely to tear the door from your car.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: Observing the rage of the cop, you feel terrified and nervous. You're afraid of an assault of some sort. You then become afraid that you'll make the wrong remark or move in a fashion that could get you assaulted. Because of this, you "clam-up" and offer no or minimal reaction to questions.

Discussion: When we discipline our kids in frustration, they become focused entirely on our upset disposition and potential for attack – not their original misbehavior. Following several of these incidents, our kids become anxiety-ridden and have the feeling they are "walking on eggshells" in our presence. Kids in these home environments (where an adult has a "hot temper") feel anxious on a regular basis. They start to hide school notes, report cards, and avoid contact with grown-ups in the house. When in this home atmosphere for several years, the kids develop panic disorders, wetting the bed, sleep issues, medical conditions, and behavior problems.


When disciplining kids, it is vital that we provide our discipline, structure, and interaction without having rage and violence. Being afraid of a mother/father is not a type of respect – it's a type of intimidation in which violence is respected, not the parent. Our behavior as a parent offers a model for kids. When our discipline includes shouting, intimidating, physical violence or harassing behaviors – these kids will grow to use these same behaviors against the mother/father and eventually against their partners and their kids.

A parent recently described an audit with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As he explains it, the audit was introduced with "This audit is not a punishment. This audit is simply to insure compliance." Insuring compliance, good behavior, and following the rules is the aim of parental discipline. Parental discipline is definitely an activity in the home, not a personal challenge to the mother/father. Guiding our kids, by correcting their mistakes at times, is best done in a series of small corrections, not intense shoves.

The Police Officer Approach to Discipline prepares kids for the adult world by emphasizing individual responsibility, acknowledging that mistakes and misbehavior happen, and that improving and fixing our behavior can be achieved in a fashion that isn't psychologically or physically damaging. We are able to provide correction and structure for our kids and still maintain a physically and emotionally healthy home atmosphere.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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