Dr. Ray Guarendi urges parents to discipline children with love Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Mar. 05, 2009 -- 1:00 AM

MADISON — Many families today seem to be out of control. All we have to do is watch the Nanny show on television to see how children often run wild in many homes.

Everyone can’t hire the Nanny to rescue their family. But perhaps the next best thing — or maybe even better — is to take the advice of family psychologist Dr. Ray Guarendi.

As the father of 10 children himself, Dr. Ray speaks from personal and professional experience. He has written many books, perhaps most notably You’re a Better Parent Than You Think!, now in its 25th printing,

Dr. Ray can be heard regularly on Relevant Radio (1240 AM in the Madison area) as the host of On Call with Dr. Ray and Friends and The Doctor Is In.

An audience of over 300 people enjoyed hearing Dr. Ray in person on Sunday, March 1, at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison. His appearance was made possible by Relevant Radio; Blau Family Chiropractic, Portage; St. Ambrose Academy, Madison; Dane County Executive candidate Nancy Mistele; and the Madison Catholic Herald.

Fr. Rick Heilman, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Pine Bluff and St. Ignatius Parish in Mt. Horeb, gave an opening prayer and short talk prior to Dr. Ray’s presentation. Father Heilman, who is heard regularly on The Inner Life on Relevant Radio, urged those present to be “mighty Catholics.”

“We’re called to be extraordinary, to raise the bar,” he said, urging Catholics to reach out, band together, and organize in a common cause with faith and hope.

Parents must take control

Dr. Ray’s nearly two-hour talk went by quickly as he mixed in serious messages with plenty of real-life examples and lots of humor. The psychologist pulled no punches in telling parents they have to take control of their families.

Parents must teach their children discipline, he emphasized. He went so far as to say that “love without discipline is child abuse. You discipline because you love them.”

If parents don’t discipline their children,  they will be disciplined by others: a teacher, a judge, a landlord, an employer, a sergeant. “You don’t want to have your kid be disciplined by them. The world will crush your children.”

Dr. Ray encouraged parents to set standards of behavior and enforce them. Tell children what is expected of them and give clear penalties (such as withholding privileges) and stick to them.

Dads should get involved

He especially urged dads to get involved in parenting. He chastised some fathers for being “Disney Dad,” the nice guys who leave the disciplining to their wives.

“Ladies tell me they’re shouldering the heavy load,” said Dr. Ray. “Gentlemen, don’t sit in the other room. Get in there.”

Quiet, calm authority

Dr. Ray said his own father was a good disciplinarian. “He loved me desperately and I knew it. But if I bothered my sister, my dad said, ‘I asked you not to bother your sister. Raymond, take a seat. Don’t get up until I tell you.’  I didn’t,” recalls Dr. Ray

Dr. Ray suggested that parents use “quiet, calm authority.” Humor also works with some children.

In extreme cases, Dr. Ray suggests parents use “black-out” to control their children’s behavior. This means stopping everything except food and some bathroom services.

Dr. Ray’s 10 adopted children all have “risk factors,” such as low birth weight, abuse, and neglect by their birth mothers. “My kids should be harder to raise, but I would not consider any of my 10 kids strong willed.”

He thinks there might be a simple explanation: “Do we have strong-willed kids because we (parents) are not strong willed?” He emphasized that parents can’t just use words. They have to back them up with action.

Dr. Ray also lamented the fact that we live in a “microwave culture.” We expect everything to happen fast. Parents get inpatient with their children if they don’t behave right away. “The essence of discipline is repetition,” he said. “Make it simple. Make it clear.”

To learn more

To hear more of Dr. Ray’s tips on parenting, listen to the rebroadcast of his talk on Relevant Radio 1240 on Sunday, March 15, at 1 p.m.

He also has a number of books and DVDs on discipline, raising great teens, adoption, and what Catholics believe. For more information go to his Web site at

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