A Colorado rancher once shared an insight with me that illustrates the balance between discipline and love in parenting. He said he employed two strategies for guiding his cattle to where he wanted them on his ranch. The first was a well. Cattle roam miles of grassland when they’re grazing, but they usually stay close to their water source. The second strategy was barbed wire. The barbs produce just enough discomfort to deter cattle from pushing beyond the boundary.
Discipline is the barbed wire of parenting. It applies just enough pressure that the child feels compelled to change behavior and form new habits. Take away a gaming system or special privileges. Require extra chores. Limit time with friends. The key is creating discomfort sufficient enough that your child chooses new behavior.
The crucial balance to the barbed wire of discipline is the deep well of unconditional love. Discipline spurs children toward positive behavioral change only when they feel their parents deeply love and care for them. Without that, discipline may provoke more defiance, not less. Love and support nourish a child’s soul like water nourishes the body.
To raise healthy, well-balanced kids, remember the advice of that wise old rancher – you need barbed wire and a well.