0

JENKINS: Good discipline means arbitrary rules and emotional pain

Editor's Note: The following is another brief excerpt from Rob Jenkinss' new book, "Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility," which will be released this week. There will be a launch party and book signing at Books for Less in Buford on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

One excellent strategy for maintaining discipline in your home is to make completely arbitrary, totally ridiculous rules.

You remember these -- your parents used to make them all the time. And it worked for them, didn't it? That's because nothing says "control" like power exercised for its own sake.

A good arbitrary/ridiculous rule is characterized by being a) pointless, and b) impossible to remember, like the tax code and the rules of hockey.

For example, you can bring your children in and say to them, "Your mother and I have decided that there will be no more television on days of the week containing a 'u.'" Or your wife could casually tell them over the dinner table, "Your father and I have decided that we will no longer allow malted milk balls in this house."

Please note that it's usually a good idea to include your wife in the unveiling of these rules. In fact, you may want to consider having her always be the one to break the news. Then your children will resent her more than they resent you, if only marginally.

Here are some other rules you may want to consider:

The toilet seat must be left up on even-numbered days and down on odd-numbered days. This rule has the added benefit of being politically correct, since it recognizes the differing hygiene needs of both male and female members of your household.

Peanut butter sandwiches may only be made with kumquat jelly. This may anger the marmalade producing nations, not to mention the Grape Growers Association of America, but that's just a chance you'll have to take.

All homework must be done before using the bathroom. Science has shown that nothing stimulates brainpower like a full bladder.

Anyone caught trespassing will be shot on sight. OK, this isn't actually a good family rule. I just threw it in for the boomers.

Another sure indicator of power is the ability to inflict pain, either emotional or physical.

When your children are small you are able to do this because you are bigger and know more psychological dirty tricks. Even as your children get older, you still have control over important resources such as money, the car and the television remote. You can use all these resources to punish violators of the arbitrary rules established above.

I will cover some of the more popular forms of punishment in another section of this book. My point here, though, is that whatever you do, make sure you and your wife do it in concert. This will show unity and perhaps also be entertaining.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer. Email him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com, follow him on TwitterThe Book on Facebook.