The Power of Perseverance

Dear Dr. Ray: I have two children as different as night and day. My son is so easy-going that sometimes he almost seems to be raising himself. My daughter has to do everything her way. Discipline just bounces off her. – “Half-defeated”

My last column spoke to the power of a child’s temperament and its impact on your parenting. Now let’s tackle perseverance, a quality critical to good discipline and a peaceful home.

“I’ve tried everything; nothing works” — a lament of exhausted and ready-to-surrender parents. As mom and dad describe how they’ve over reasoned, begged, spanked, denied Duke every privilege except breathing, and threatened to move out in the middle of the night, almost always I find that along the way they tried things that would have eventually worked. Either they didn’t use them regularly enough or stick with them long enough. Tireless Duke simply outlasted every piece of discipline his folks experimented with.

All discipline requires one crucial ingredient to be effective: TIME. It is rare discipline that works after a few tries. Most kids need weeks, months, and sometimes even years to learn lessons about this world. Even we grown-up kids have to learn much the long way.

To get some perspective on how long discipline takes to work, consider yourself. Don’t you possess characteristics you’ve been struggling with for years — things like procrastinating, losing your temper, talking about others behind their back? No? Okay, consider your spouse, then. Seriously, when you act impulsively or foolishly don’t you get disciplined, part of the time anyway? Your conscience bothers you, a friend reacts negatively, and the world puts some consequence on you. In fact, you’ve been getting disciplined for some of this stuff for years. How come you’re still doing it? Should we expect a child, after three weeks of going to a chair, to slap his head and say, “Oh, Mother, I’ve been so blind! I see what you’re saying, ‘I spit, I sit.”‘

When I was fourteen, my mother established a backtalk rule: Each disrespectful outburst led to one hour in my room. My bedroom was not somewhere I wanted to spend free time. It was basically a barren place, unlike the standard teenage room today, which comes equipped with a seventeen-foot video screen; twelve flavor slush puppy machine, and a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. Upon first hearing of this cruel rule, I expressed my true feelings (one hour), mouthed the stock teen-under-the-breath- parting -shot (two hours), and slammed the door hard enough to wake the neighbor kids (three hours). By the time I got it through my thick adolescent head that each piece of backtalk cost one hour of isolation, I missed my whole summer vacation. When I finally came out, my eyes hurt from the light. Well, not quite, but I did resist my mother’s rule, and she did persevere. I slowly learned mouth control, a rough lesson for an adolescent.

One of the most overlooked facts of discipline is this: A mediocre approach used regularly and over time will work better than the most brilliant approach used sporadically and tentatively. Perseverance is as hard to practice, if not more so, than consistency, but the rewards are immeasurable for both you and your daughter. Through perseverance you will eventually see success, while your daughter learns lessons at your hands, not the world’s. And your hands are so much gentler.

To learn more about Dr. Ray Guarendi, please visit his website:

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About the Author

Dr. Ray Guarendi is a father of 10, clinical psychologist, author, public speaker and radio host. His radio show ― "The Doctor Is In" ― can be heard weekdays. Please see our radio affiliate listings (Ave Maria Radio & EWTN Radio) for a station in your area. You can also listen live online or on Sirius satellite radio, channel 160. Dr. Ray's experience includes school districts, Head Start programs, mental health centers, substance abuse programs, inpatient psychiatric centers, juvenile courts, and a private practice. Dr. Ray has been a regular guest on national radio and television, including Oprah, Joan Rivers, Scott Ross Prime Time, 700 Club, Gordon Elliot, and CBS This Morning. He's appeared on regional radio and television shows in over 40 states and Canada. He has been the program psychologist for Cleveland's Morning Exchange, Pittsburgh 2-Day, and AM Indiana. He has written several books, including Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime, You’re a Better Parent Than You Think!, now in its twenty-fifth printing, Back to the Family, Good Discipline, Great Teens, Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It and his newest book, Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards.

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1 Comment

  1. In terms of personality and temperament, human beings are like snowflakes; in that no two are alike. Similarities may exist but the human person is highly individual and unique, and I believe that is due to the fact that we are wonderfully and fearfully made, and peculiarly loved by God. He created us individually to be one of a kind. Based upon my experience and interactions with people, adults in particular, for adults are far more challenging to deal with than children as they are less malleable; the psychological profile that commonly dictates the psychological approach and thus method is an insufficient paradigm for contending with the needs of any given person. The psychological application of any given practice employed to teach and instill discipline, becomes one dimensional in effectiveness, when as people of faith, we fail to allow the dynamism of the Spirit to guide and thus influence our actions. We frustrate ourselves in attempts at behavioral modification with our children via recommendations based upon theories rooted in pure human psychology; yet we can look at the changes we pursue in our personal, adult lives and recognize the propensity for utter failure, unless we cooperate with God’s grace through prayer, sacramental fortification, and self-denial. Younger persons are actually easier to ‘prune’ thus influence than we adults. Human behavior is not rocket science and is highly predictable often times.We live what we learn and our greatest teachers are the examples in our immediate environment; for without the practice of self-denial and allowance of Divine guidance, we tend to emulate our closest peers be it friends or family. Ever hear the phrase, ” You are acting so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”? As parents, we primarily exemplify God to our offspring, until maturity leads our young into their own personal and intimate relationship with Christ. If our own relationship with God is not firmly cemented and lacking, our significance to our children will be impaired. Based upon my experience and observation of many family situations, including my own, when children are in need of discipline, my first clue to the cause is found in the activities of the adults in the immediate environment. However, our pride rejects considering the most obvious variable of example and thus influence; ourselves. Usually our children need discipline because we do. Allowing ourselves to be transformed by God , and living and demonstrating such,will be the greatest example, and thus disciplining factor in the lives of our children. The reality we must remember and keep in the forefront of our minds, is that we are given authority by God over our children, but it is a spiritual clout. If we do not master ourselves, we can never effectively influence our offspring; and the efficacious utilization of one’s God given authority takes practice, and much of it. Love covers a multitude of sins and the consequent behavioral problems, and prayer is the key. Love, prayer, self-denial, self-discipline, and self-control are the greatest parental disciplines we can employ. This reality is not mortal psychology but Divine law.

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