Those Three D-Words in Parenting

D-wordsRecognizing D-words

I didn’t consider those D-words when I became a mom. When we became parents, we didn’t sit down and discuss the things for which we planned to discipline our kids. I think we knew we agreed on the important things, but it might have helped had we isolated behavior into three separate categories. You take care of those three issues, and you’ll have your ducks in a row. Except when the ducks get out of a line, of course. Then you have to get them back in a row. It’s called parenting.

I think, had we actually “itemized” those categories, it might have helped me figure out better how to deal out consequences, which behaviors to zone in on, and the end goal in mind. By the time most of our kids were raised and we became foster parents, we had behavior categorized.  We’d also figured out that it was not wise to allow a kid to be in charge. I discovered that it helped our kids when we explained which of those D-words they exhibited when they crossed the line on good behavior.

Non-D-word behaviors

There are some things kids do that don’t fall into these categories. When that’s the case, you don’t need to come at them with both barrels. Recognize that kids are kids and allow them to make mistakes. I’m talking about spilling milk on the floor, knocking over a glass that breaks, forgetting to close a door, or accidentally tearing a page in a book. None of these infractions involves the D-words.

You know your kids, and you can pretty much tell when something is intentional and deliberate or whether it really is an accident. As parents, we know if a child is clumsy because he’s in a hurry or because he’s not developed enough physically. We also know whether the un-closed door is laziness on the part of a kid or if he doesn’t realize he didn’t quite get it closed tightly. We must recognize that we ourselves at times spill milk, put a slight tear on a book page, fail to close the door tightly, or knock over a glass mistakenly. That’s why we give grace.

On the other side of unintentional is the attitude of deliberate intention. That’s when we need to zone in on discipline and consequences. With our kids, there were three areas we did not tolerate (except when we failed) , and you shouldn’t tolerate them either.


  • de·fi·ance
 open resistance; bold disobedience.
This D-word happens when a child knows exactly what is expected of him and he refuses to cooperate. Recognize it as disobedience. This can involve doing what he should not do or not doing what he is supposed to do. He puts his foot right across the line and refuses to budge, daring you to do something about it. Don’t let him down. Do something about it. It’s better for you to do something about that attitude of defiance now than to get a phone call from a principal or officer of the law years down the road. If he does not learn to submit to your authority, he won’t plan to submit to anyone else’s, either.


  • dis·hon·es·ty
deceitfulness shown in someone’s character or behavior.
Lying is another D-word. It is as common and natural as the sun rising and setting. This involves telling an untruth or giving an implication without so much as saying anything. Embellishing truth is telling a lie. When we can’t trust our kids to tell the truth, we can’t expect anyone else to believe them. What employer wants a dishonest employee? There’s no such thing as a little white lie, because all lies becomes bigger and blacker as times goes on.
Squelch lying first of all by being truthful yourself. When your kids hear you tell lies to others, they think it’s okay for them to lie, too. (Why shouldn’t it be?).  So many parents have habits of untruthfulness or embellishing, but can’t see it in themselves. When your child lies, he needs to experience consequences. But if you’re a liar yourself, don’t even bother because you can’t expect something of your child that you don’t do yourself.
Lying leads to defamation and others being blamed for what we have done. Scripture speaks strongly against dishonesty. We should do the same. When your child is dishonest, he must be taught to quit lying and become honest. This takes work, and it takes time. Don’t be a lazy parent; do the work necessary to help your child become a person of integrity.


  • dis·re·spect
lack of respect or courtesy.
“growing disrespect for the rule of law”
This D-word, disrespect, involves not only people, but property and things. Not taking care of something we own is disrespectful. Rudeness happens so frequently in our society. Showing respect for older people, females, and children is a lost art in many communities. Children need to be taught to be polite and accommodating to those who are older, weaker, or handicapped.
Respect is also evidenced in the way we speak to others. In the south, children are taught to say “Yes, sir,” or “No, Ma’am” when spoken to. This shows respect and honor. Sassy speech, arguing, or using foul language is disrespectful. We know what is respectful and what is not. It’s all too easy for parents to ignore disrespect from their children. As Barney Fife says, we must “Nip it in the bud!”  Sadly, many parents refuse to do the work necessary to nip disrespect in the bud. We allow our kids to talk back to us, sass us, and refuse to obey – all of which are signs of disrespect.

Figuring it out

If you are going to discipline your child or deal out consequences, you have to have a plan. Don’t wait until something happens and then quit before you get started because you don’t know what to do. When you’re dealing with a child and you’re not quite sure what to do, ask yourself a question.  “Does what my child just said or did fall into any of the three D categories? Was he disobedient, dishonest, or disrespectful? If your honest answer is “Yes!”, then deal with it.

If your child is defiant, dishonest, or disrespectful, he must receive consequences for his behavior. Don’t make excuses. Don’t count to three. He doesn’t need to hear, “Next time . . . “.  He needs to see you follow your plan, and to experience parents who follow through.

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