The title of this week’s Dad4Kids newsletter is taken from Dr James Dobson’s ground breaking book Dare to Dicipline which was published in 1976. I did read parts of the book in the early eighties but I had already formed my opinions on the need for proper boundaries and discipline for children, even before I had my own. Fortunately both my wife and I had roughly the same ideas and that was fortuitous in the extreme. When it comes to discipline, the critical thing, perhaps more than anything else, is agreement. Of course this presupposes that discipline for children is fair.

The role of the father is to show unconditional love, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have rules, and consequences. We live in a world where the consequence of not performing at work, or doing the wrong thing, will get you the sack. The first duty of parents is to show love, care and respect for their children. But if we don’t create boundaries and develop clear expectations for our children, that are mutually agreed on and enforced by both mum and dad, we do our children a huge disservice.

The world is full of pain when we cross certain boundaries. I would much rather give my 2 year old son a gentle whack on his diaper covered bottom when he reaches out to touch a red hot radiator with a loud ‘NO’ than allow him the anguish of third degree burns and 3 weeks in hospital. Mind you a good parent will have already endeavoured to explain the risks of ‘hot’ and the need for care in the kitchen before such a situation occurs. Discipline is all about anticipating problems before they happen and trying to get your children to understand the all-important dangers associated with the consequences.

Another thing I believe is that is okay to spank your children if necessary. Shock horror!! How could you Warwick? Don’t you realize that we have risen above that in our evolutionary development? Our children need love Warwick, and love alone. Only troglodytes still believe in corporal punishment.

That means that the majority of Australian parents, and parents around the world (I mean billions of parents) are troglodytes. That is something I just don’t buy. I received the cane at school and it hasn’t emotionally scarred me; quite the reverse. I learned the need to respect authority (my teachers) and obey the school rules. I have done a lot of work in schools over the last thirty years and I really feel sorry for teachers. Things have changed for the worse at many schools since the removal of corporal punishment. Discipline has become lax and teachers are not properly supported. Thirty-five years ago any damage done to a teacher by students was a major incident. Teachers these days can get stabbed in high schools and not much is done about it. Bullying in schools is in epidemic proportions. Sexual assault at school is not uncommon against teachers and students.

I was also spanked at home and although I didn’t like it at the time, here I am today, a relatively normal member of the human race. I would agree with James Dobson that spanking should always be a last resort but sometimes it is still necessary. If punishment meted out hurts you more than it hurts your child, then it is probably a good indicator that it is the right action. Unfortunately there are those parents that take things too far, but I know plenty of young men who are in goal today and some are dead because their parents never set clear boundaries with clear consequences and who didn’t follow through with effective discipline.

In my experience boys need firmer discipline than girls, whilst every child is different. Each situation must be approached on its own merit.

Children grow on love and appreciation, not rules and regulations. However some rules are needed to preserve peace in the home for the greater good of the whole family.


Don’t discipline your children in anger.

Avoid smacking where possible.

Time out, “Three Choice Magic 123” or the removal of privileges is a much better starting point.

Consistency is the key.

Fairness in your disciplinary approach with the support of your spouse is imperative.

Avoid public humiliation of your children at all costs.

Agree beforehand with your wife on the rules in your house that are important.

Don’t major on the minors ie be firm and consistent with the major issues and compromise on the minors where necessary.

If you love your children and actively listen to them and respect them, you will reduce the need for discipline massively and have a much happier home.

Yours for a happy home

Warwick Marsh


Published On: July 29th, 20160 Comments on Dare to Discipline

About the Author: Warwick Marsh

Warwick Marsh has been married to Alison Marsh since 1975; they have five children and nine grandchildren, and he and his wife live in Wollongong in NSW, Australia. He is a family and faith advocate, social reformer, musician, TV producer, writer and public speaker. Warwick is a leader in the Men’s and Family Movement, and he is well-known in Australia for his advocacy for children, marriage, manhood, family, fatherhood and faith. Warwick is passionate to encourage men to be great fathers and to know the greatest Father of all. The Father in Whom “there is no shadow of turning.”

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