I subscribe to what I call the Cesar Milan method of parenting. Now if you don't have a dog (or a T.V.!), then you may not have heard of "The Dog Whisperer". Milan trains dogs using a special method, but don't ask me if it works with dogs. Mine is as spoiled as the day is long, which in Texas is very, very long (and hot!).
The method works like this...Exercise...Discipline...Affection
Here's how you put it into practice with pre-teens and teenagers. If you can, it's best to start at about age 9.
First thing in the morning, you get them up and you exercise them. And I mean exercise them hard - not chores, real exercise. This morning we went for a two mile run, then we came back and they swam laps. Then they came in and did chores. Then they took a quick "Navy" shower. Finally, it was time for breakfast! Yes this is one of the reasons I have the "coach" nickname! LOL!
Then, we are ready for school. Our first class is "Homeroom". That might sound weird to some people but I have a reason for it. (And it starts at 8 am so that tells you how fast they are running and swimming to get all of this done between by 8 am). The purpose behind Homeroom is a team building exercise. Your child needs to know that it's you and him/her (and that child and their siblings) against the world. You need to function as a team to survive. (Yes, more sports metaphors, LOL!) If a member of the team starts acting like a star and caring more about only himself and not as part of the team, the team is not going to win "the race".
So how does "Homeroom" serve as both Discipline and Affection? The first thing you need to know is who you child is and who they want to become. That way you will know how to talk to them in a way that will motivate them. Do they want to be in the Army one day? Do they want
to be an Olympic swimmer? Do they want to play in the NFL? Do they want to go to college? Then you work on what character traits it takes to become that person and what you see lacking. But you don't lecture them about it, use the Socratic method - turn it around and you ask them. What do they think it takes to become the person who plays in the NFL rather than the person watching the game on the couch on Sunday? Write the things down on the board or a big poster board. A good work ethic? Lots of practice? Determination? What do they think they need to change in themselves to make this happen?
The Affection part comes when you start telling them what you see in them that makes you proud. Bring up examples of when you saw that character trait in them...the things you want to reinforce. Don't keep bringing up what you want to see changed. You have already covered that. End on a note of what you see as progress. For example, "I was so proud of you when you got up early this morning without me having to come in and wake you up. You were already outside doing your chores. Thank you!" Or "During the game on Saturday, when the referee made that bad call, you didn't complain at all. But you didn't let it bother you either, you just came right
back out on the next drive and sacked their quarterback. Great job! Now that's real sportsmanship."
Most importantly, know your child. What is their love language? When you are showing affection make sure you are showing it in a way that they can "hear it". Do they want a hug? Do they want to hear words of affirmation? Do they like rewards? You need to know what a child's love language is or you could be accidentally send the wrong signal. Do not assume a child responds to your language of love.
At the beginning of the year, Homeroom is where I reassess the children's love language, learning style, etc. to make sure that I am "speaking their language" and teaching so that they can learn.
Exercise - then they are too tired to argue back.
Discipline - when they are already to tired to talk back, now is the time to talk about what they need to work on.
Affection - end the conversation on a positive note so that they feel loved.
The balance of Truth and Grace is vital. Remember that God shows us both Truth and Grace. He disciplines us in love. But we always know that He loves us. Your child needs to feel that
unconditional love as well.