Why Parents Need to Be The Boss

Posted September 21, 2010 by

A big stumbling block for parents today is discipline. Some choose to avoid it altogether, while others struggle with what is appropriate. What do you do from day to day, moment to moment? One of the things I’ve noticed over the last twenty years is that parents’ confidence in discipline has suffered. Parents are tentative when it comes to exercising discipline and, when they do, they tend to bring a pretty weak effort.

This has come about for a couple of reasons. Today, parents have to spend so much time outside of the home that we feel guilty about it. Also, some want to be our child’s friend first and foremost. In addition, it seems like the rules for being a parent have changed over the years;  sometimes it’s difficult to know if you are being too hard on the kids. The tendency now is to maybe err on the side of Yes, when in the past No was the default. The issue here is that a bad Yes is much, much worse than a bad No.

We need to look at this challenge not as one solely about discipline but about leadership, because if you just try to be the disciplinarian without building a foundation where your child trusts and respects you, it will end in failure. Now, leadership can be an imposing word. A dad once said to me, “I don’t want to save the world; I just want to keep my kid out of trouble!” I assume most parents agree with that statement, so let’s work with something that anyone who has ever held a job understands: Parents need to be the boss.

Actually, I need to be more specific here. Parents need to be the good boss, not that bad boss who screams — and everyone ignores. That bad boss only worries about being the tough guy and not a leader, so we need to focus on what we need to do to be a leader and good boss.  If we can model how we “manage” our children based upon our own experience with a boss we truly respected, we can become leaders in our family, instead of frazzled passengers.

What do you think? How do you approach child discipline in your home? And are you a “good boss” or a “bad boss?”


John McPherson is a leadership and management consultant in Salinas, CA. John and his wife Christina have two children, Fiona and Carson. Both John and Christina’s parents had a great influence in their upbringing, which helped them define how they would parent their children. Over the past ten years, John observed how many parenting practices have strayed from the principles he and Christina have found to be successful, and this led him to write a book on parenting, entitled "Ten Simple Rules for Being a Parent in a World Turned Upside Down".

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