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The domino theory of parenting

June 13, 2013

Here’s a life-changing idea…
In his book, The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting, Laurence Steinberg says,
“[Some parents] adhere to what I call the “domino theory” of parenting: that as soon as a parent gives in on something small, her child will start challenging her on everything, even things that are much more serious. Actually, just the opposite is true. When you show your child that you know the difference between something that is trivial and something that isn’t, it makes your stance on the serious issues seem that much more justified” (p. 100).

In other words…
Parents are often caught on the horns of a dilemma. We don’t want to cave in, but we don’t want to be unreasonable. The key to settling this dilemma is for the parent to judge whether the original rule or decision was reasonable. We should not surrender just because a child begs, but when we make a rule or pronounce a punishment in haste and later realize our mistake, it is appropriate to modify our stand.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…
Examine the rules in your home. Do they make sense? If so, stand by them. Be sure that your children learn that rules matter, but when you have made a dumb rule, don’t be afraid to amend it.

To find out more…
about parenting, check out The Parenting Journey or See the World Through My Eyes programs at, follow us at or contact your local county Extension agent. You might also enjoy reading The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting.

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