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by Ron L. Deal

Parenting is only partly about “technique.” Frequently the parents I counsel complain that they’ve “tried all the discipline strategies in the world, but nothing works.” That’s because techniques won’t work if you don’t have the foundations to parenting—that is, the cornerstones upon which discipline strategies and techniques are built—in order.

One Key Foundation: Parenting is essentially about leadership which flows out of who we are. The first challenge of leadership is managing ourselves. Parents and stepparents who know both themselves and the needs of their children will likely adapt well to the challenges of raising healthy kids. But, parents who do not know themselves—their own motives, values, emotional vulnerabilities and scars, personality, and strengths—will likely find parenting very frustrating.

Hector got along great with his first-born son who was compliant and agreeable. But Hector found himself in frequent battles with his second-born daughter Amanda, age 10. Her direct personality ruffled his feathers and he took her “But why, dad?” questions as personal affronts to his authority. Hector found himself belittling her and angry at every turn. His responses were crushing his daughter’s spirit and putting distance in their relationship. After some personal reflection, Hector realized that Amanda’s personality mirrored that of his ex-wife, Suzanne, who had left him and the kids five years earlier, leaving him deeply hurt. Suzanne’s selfishness had made her very difficult to live with and now Hector found himself battling with his daughter in the same way he battled with his ex-wife. Getting control of his parenting had to start with the resolution of his divorce and his hurt feelings. Until then, he could not lead his daughter because he was too busy resenting her.

On a regular basis, growing parents remember to look in the mirror and ask what it is about themselves that needs to change and grow. If you can’t manage yourself, what make you think you can manage your children?

Ron L. Deal is Founder & President of Smart Stepfamilies™ and Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®. He is a bestselling author, highly sought-after speaker, and therapist specializing in marriage enrichment and blended family education. Learn more here.