There is a growing menace to the American way of life and it is happening right in our own homes! This threat aims right at the heart of the family and is characterized by a sizeable, and what I believe is a growing number of out-of-control, spoiled, and sometimes aggressive children. In my role as therapist in the prosperous suburb of Ahwatukee, I have been inundated by concerned, and sometimes frantic parents, who say that they "just can't control their children's behavior," and that they "dread coming home after work."

Here are some examples of what is prompting parents to release such outcries of dismay and distress: An 8-year-old boy who yells at his dad to "hurry up and move his fat butt," or the teenager telling her dad to "shut up" because he was clearing his throat. These are just a few examples; I could provide many, many, more.

What is even more disturbing than the actions of these children, with their disrespectful and out-of-control behavior, is the general victim-like attitude of the parents. Many parents have been willing to put up with the negative behaviors of their children, which then unfortunately become ingrained, before the parents decide to seek assistance.

While I do have empathy for the outside forces buffeting the American family, especially our current economic crisis, I have difficulty accepting the parental defeatist attitude. Despite my protestations to view discipline and accountability as education, many parents are reluctant to be firm for fear of being too harsh on their children.

The underlying philosophy of effective discipline is to teach our children within the home, the rules and regulations of our society. In doing so we are instructing our youth that we all must be held accountable for our actions, that there are consequences for misbehaviors and rule breaking.

Parents must rethink their attitude about discipline: It is not punishment but education and it must be administered clearly, calmly, and consistently. Parents who feel they are losing control must establish effective discipline programs. Parental expectations must be clearly communicated and consequences for misbehaviors enforced. Good behavior should be acknowledged and positive reinforcement offered.

We must have the inner resolve and motivation to create a warm, friendly, respectful, and disciplined home environment, where children know who is in charge, and where they feel safe with firm limits established. This approach will allow our children to thrive, develop self-control, promote their ability to modulate their own behaviors, and become productive and healthy members of our society.

• Barry Oblas, Ph.D., LCSW, is a mental health therapist in private practice in Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach him at (602) 469-0899 or at

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