Effective Discipline: Delegate, Part One

The third “D” that parents are encouraged to earn on their Effective Discipline Report Card stands for Delegate. Another part of effective disciplining involves the ability to effectively delegate responsibilities to children in order to promote, over time, an inner understanding and appreciation for the importance of becoming a responsible human being.

How to effectively delegate responsibilities

Diane Wagenhals, Program Director, Master Trainer, Curricula Writer, Researcher, Mother and Grandmother Development

Google’s definition of delegate is “to entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself.”

A very powerful perspective is posited by one of the highly influential founders of healthy parenting practices, Dr. Haim Ginott,, author of a classic book, Between Parent and Child. In another classic book, Liberated Parents, Liberated Children authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish describe an exchange between Dr. Ginott and a parent in one of Dr. Ginott’s parenting groups:

“Dr. Ginott listened quietly…and then posed this question: What is our major goal as parents?” 

…[a] woman glibly said, “To produce children who are, among other things, brilliant, polite, charming, neat and well-adjusted, of course.” 

Dr. Ginott looked solemn. It was obvious that this last comment had not amused him. He leaned forward and said, “This is how I see it. It seems to me that our large goal is to find the ways to help our children become humane and strong. For what does it profit us if we have a neat, polite, charming youngster who could watch people suffer and not be moved to action? 

“What have we accomplished if we have reared a child who is brilliant – at the top of his class – but who uses his intellect to manipulate others? 

“And do we really want children so well-adjusted that they adjust to an unjust situation?

Too many Germans adjusted only too well to the orders of the Nazis to exterminate millions of their fellow men.” 

“Understand me. I’m not opposed to a child being polite or neat or learned. The crucial question for me is ‘What methods have been used to accomplish these ends? If the methods used are insults, attacks, and threats, then we can be very sure that we have also taught this child to insult, attack, to threaten, and to comply when threatened.” 

“If, on the other hand, we use methods that are humane, then we’ve taught something much more important than a series of isolated virtues. We’ve shown the child how to be a person – a mensch, a human being who can conduct his life with strength and dignity.” [pages 14-15]

Wow! How important is it for parents to embrace their responsibility to nurture, within children, abilities to be humane in life! It is not our job to make our children happy. It’s not that we don’t want our children to be happy, but that is not our most important job as parents. Being able to delegate responsibilities to our children is one way to nurture that humanity and character within them so as adults they can become strong and healthy human beings.

Invitation to reflect:

  1. To what extent have you considered delegating as one of your jobs as a parent?
  2. To what extent do you embrace the idea that your job as a parent is not about making your children happy, rather it is about nurturing a deeper sense of responsibility for being a humane, caring person?
  3. Can you think of some specific ways you might delegate more responsibilities to your children in order to promote that deeper sense of responsibility, especially around being a caring, humane person?

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network