Dare to Discipline

Dare to Discipline is a pro-spanking parenting book by James Dobson. It was first published in 1970 as a counter-position to correct what was perceived by the author as a generation of permissive parents, a trend he observed beginning in the 1950s and growing ever since, reaching an extent in the late 1960s that he believed to be one of the main causes of the social problems of that time, from disrespect, immoral and antisocial behaviour in adolescents and young adults to sexual offenses and drug abuse. Dobson encourages his readers to correct that trend by following his methods, which he calls balanced approach that combines parental love and discipline, the two things children need.

Dobson is an American evangelical Christian with a PhD in child psychology. He is known for his conservative views. Dobson also wrote revised editions of this book and other parenting books such as The Strong-Willed Child.


In Dare to Discipline, Dobson suggests that parents should use corporal punishment when a preteen child openly defies and challenges their authority. He suggests non-punitive measures, such as a reward system based on the "Law of Reinforcement", for other behavior-shaping tasks that do not present a direct challenge, such as getting a child to do household chores.

The main corporal punishment method condoned by Dobson is spanking. The author also mentions other methods which the parent might use for minor correction such as slapping the child's hand, pinching the trapezius muscle at the neck-shoulder region, or a "thump on the head".

According to Dobson, corporal punishment is a useful parental tool that he advises to use, at the right time and in the right manner, from toddler age on. Dobson strongly disadvises the use of corporal punishment for older children (teenagers).


Children will learn what they are taught. (...) Respectful and responsible children result from families where the proper combination of love and discipline is present. Both these ingredients must be applied in the necessary quantities. An absence of either is often disastrous.
  Dare to Discipline, chapter 1

Nothing brings a parent and child closer together than for the mother or father to win decisively after being defiantly challenged. This is particlularly true if the child was 'asking for it', knowing full well that he deserved what he got.
  Dare to Discipline, chapter 1

It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely. After the emotional ventilation, the child will often want to crumple to the breast of his parent, and he should be welcomed with open, warm, loving hands. At that moment you can talk heart to heart. You can tell him how much you love him and how important he is to you. You can explain why he was disciplined and how he can avoid the difficulty next time. This kind of communication is often impossible with other disciplinary measures... such as standing the youngster in the corner or taking away his favorite toy.
  Dare to Discipline, chapter 1


ISBN 978-0553255287

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