Q: My 5-year-old son is an only child whom I homeschool. He talks back, argues and generally wears me down. I need help getting to him to realize that no is no, that I mean what I say. I know I'm the problem. Help!
A: Better that you have come to grips now with the fact that you are the problem than when he's much older and these difficulties have acquired much more momentum. Before giving you some advice, I have to repeat what I've said several times before in this column: I do not recommend homeschooling when the child in question is disobedient, disrespectful and generally difficult to "control." Pre-existing discipline problems are counterproductive to an effective homeschool environment. Discipline problems should be solved before homeschooling is attempted. So the first recommendation I'm going to tender for your consideration is that you send your son to a "regular" school until you get his behavior under control.
Today's parents believe discipline is a technology involving the manipulation of reward and punishment. In other words, they believe discipline is accomplished through the proper use of consequences. The fact is that whereas consequences are sometimes needed, more with some kids than others, the proper discipline of a child is primarily a matter of employing authoritative speech, including authoritative body language. Taking one example, do not (as the majority of parenting pundits advise) "get down to your child's level" when you speak to him or her. In so doing, you look like you are pleading. Stand upright. When I speak on proper discipline, I emphasize the need for parents to "act like superior beings." It may come as a surprise, but contrary to the parent-child egalitarianism parenting "experts" have promoted for more than a generation, adults are superior to children.