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Video Highlights 

 “Using Village Helpers to Teach Discipline” 

Karen Rancourt, Ph.D. 

To view video: vimeo.com/47635924 


I.              Introduction

  • Discipline = controlled behavior that is age appropriate and doesn’t pose a threat to others.
  • The disciplined child has learned to curb or re-channel impulsive inclinations into behaviors that are socially acceptable
  • In fairness to parents, it must be said that it’s easier to teach discipline to some kids than it is to others
  • The old African proverb, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.” as a metaphor to suggest that there are other adults in a child’s extended community or village, these I call village helpers
  • Important to note that I am not suggesting parents abdicate their responsibilities for disciplining their children
  • Alas, sometimes it falls on one parent to be “the bad guy”

II.            What we know about kids and discipline

  • They are very adaptable and flexible to rules and expectations of wide variety of people, even in same family or school
  • Kids often behave better for others 
  • Home is the lab and place for kids pushing back, experimenting and acting out
  • Kids can be really tough when young, and typically they turn out just fine!
  • Can get stuck with primary disciplinarians in power struggle cycles; need to break the cycle, re-frame it in a way that removes the negative emotion and is face-saving for all

III.          Examples of already using “village helpers”

  • Doctors, dentists, teachers
    • “I don’t want to go to bed” (call upon the pediatrician to set the rules)
    • “I don’t want to brush my teeth” (call upon the child’s dentist)
    • “I don’t want to get dressed for school” (call upon your child’s teacher)
  • When grandparents and others are being village helpers: stay out of their way; don’t over rule or interfere

IV.           Using the Village: Summary

·      The African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is used as a metaphor to illustrate the value of a parent purposefully recruiting someone outside the usual cadre of disciplinarians to help discipline their child.


·      It is not uncommon for a parent to get locked into a repetitious cycle where the child is misbehaving, the parent tries various interventions, nothing changes except, perhaps, the emotional pitch becomes more intense


·       What started as an annoying situation often escalates to one of anger and increased acting out.


·       In these situations, a parent deferring to someone with authority for clarification can get the parent out of the futile role of being “the bad guy or gal”


·      And refocus the issue for both the parent and the child on what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Many times a child who is getting emotionally stuck, e.g., having a tantrum, welcomes the presence of someone new, different and in a position of authority.

·      Even if these “village helpers” are strangers, if they are scripted correctly by the parent, they can be effective de facto disciplinarians.



Karen L. Rancourt      917-543-4364     Karen@RancourtParenting.com




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