Media Contact
Rich Batten
Colorado Department of Human Services
Maggie Spain
The Bawmann Group

April 29, 2009

Fair, Balanced and Consistent Discipline: How Fathers Can Promote Clean Play and Responsible Behavior

Many fathers have trouble balancing their roles as disciplinarian, parent and friend to their children. When their child misbehaves, fathers might be too easy with their punishment in order to maintain a friendly relationship or they may let their anger get the best of them and react too harshly. Unfortunately, neither of these methods encourages children to succeed and do better the next time. Colorado dads should know that by making a point to teach, be fair and remove anger when enforcing the rules, they can encourage their children to do good instead of misbehave.

“The end result of discipline is to teach a child the consequences of their actions, hoping they do not make the same mistakes twice,” said Rich Batten, fatherhood and family specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services. “Children will respect punishments doled out fairly and if they see the consequences as their fault, will respect the punishments from their dads.”

A great way to look at discipline is to compare it to sports, where working together as a team and abiding by the rules is essential to achieving success. According to Mark Perlman, creator of The Nurturing Fathers Program, a fatherhood curriculum used nationwide, if fathers look at the goals, rules, teamwork and consequences of bad play central to all team sports, they can then inspire their children to behave.

• The Goals
In every sport, it is essential to make sure you have the proper equipment, the right skills and good training in order to win the game. For fathers, this includes setting up the playing field in a way that helps both the children and family succeed. If fathers can explain to their children the “game” and how to be successful in it, their children will know what they need to do. For a family, the goals should be to work together, to be safe and happy, to learn and grow and to help each member get their needs met without denying others.

• The Rules

The rules set by fathers, similar to those in any sport, are meant to encourage good, clean and fair behavior just as much as they are intended to punish the bad. For instance in team sports, rules encourage playing within the lines and discourage stepping outside of them. These rules also encourage playing in a respectful manner and discourage harming opposing players. In life, without these rules, or if the rules are not explained clearly, you cannot expect children to learn to play the game.

• Teamwork
What do team players do every time one player makes a foul shot, a good pass or scores a goal? They give them a pat on the back, a high five or a compliment -every time! Therefore, there must be some special value in parental encouragement. As a father, the deeds and acts you pay attention to are more likely to be repeated by your children. Praise these good behaviors and reward teamwork.

• Discourage Misbehavior

Before a game starts, every player knows the exact consequences that will result should they commit a penalty. This way, the severity of the punishment is not dictated by the anger of the ref nor does it differ from game to game. Fathers also need to establish clear consequences for when their children break the rules. If these consequences can be logically related to the transgression, then the child will learn more from them.

In October 2006, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Works Division was awarded a $10 million federal grant over five years to strengthen father/child relationships and improve parenting. Colorado is one of two locations nationwide, including Washington, D.C., to receive this federal community access grant. The Responsible Fatherhood Initiative distributes more than $1.2 million in community awards to state, community and faith based organizations to assist in providing direct services to fathers and families. Awards of up to $50,000 are distributed per program per fiscal year. For more information on a fatherhood program in your community, please visit