NEWSFOR RELEASE:MON. APRIL 8, 2002Contact: Bob Weiner 301-283-0821


Dr. Theron Alexander, Bay Area American Psychological Assoc. Distinguished Fellow, Says “Connectedness” Makes Discipline Unnecessary: 

Better Childhood without Discipline 

Love -- not the stick -- is how to raise a childd, asserts child psychologist Theron Alexander, Ph.D., in a new book, A Better Childhood … without discipline.

Dr. Alexander is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychological Association, from Atherton (near San Francisco), California, who received his doctorate from the University of Chicago. His experience in listening to thousands of troubled families as a behavioral scientist and clinical psychologist led him to see the damaging effect on children and families caused by discipline and punishment.  Instead, Dr. Alexander insists on the value of the principle of "connectedness", through which strong family bonds transcend the need for a system of punishment and rewards. 

According to Alexander, the absence of discipline does not imply permissiveness, which is a lack of caring and guidance. Rather, it is the creation of a relationship grounded in absolute trust and a parent's unwavering belief in a child. This in turn teaches the child that he or she can depend on the parent for unfaltering support no matter what life may bring. 

Through the stories of families with whom he has worked, Dr. Alexander illustrates how connectedness can be put into practice.  Larry was an eleven year-old boy who found a gun on the way to school. Though the police and school principal did not believe the child's statement that it was not his gun, Larry's father stood by his son rather than rushing to judgment. He supported Larry and insisted that the authorities listen to his son, in whom he had absolute faith. Ultimately, it was proven that Larry's father was right to trust in his son's innocence. The gun had been discarded by a robber and turned out to be valuable evidence to the police. What the child learned was that he could always be confident in his father's belief in him. Thus a difficult situation resulted in a strengthening of the commitment between parent and child. As Alexander points out, "Connectedness stands out clearly as the fundamental foundation for parents as a guide in providing a better childhood."  It is this foundation that provides children the means to develop and grow into successful, capable, confident adults.

Connectedness is a bond that a parent creates with a child through affection, emotional support, and patient teaching of desired behavior. Where discipline can bring about only temporary obedience through rules and threat of punishment, connectedness forms the basis for long-term results. When parents realize that frequently a child's misbehavior is not malicious, but rather a result of inexperience or a lesson not yet learned, they understand that patient teaching is the answer, not punishment. As an example, Alexander cites the case of a young boy named Leslie waiting with his father to cross a street. Leslie repeatedly tried to step into the street, at which point his father would roughly pull him back to the curb. Finally, in frustration, the father spanked Leslie's bottom, and the child began to cry. What Leslie's father took for disobedience, however, was actually the result of inexperience. The child had not yet learned how to read a traffic light. Instead of punishing Leslie, his father could have taken the opportunity to teach his son how to safely cross a road. Rather than both father and son becoming upset, the moment could be used to foster connectedness through patient teaching. For a child who feels confident in unconditional parental support, learning comes easily, says Alexander: "Reducing anxiety by affectionate parental patience and support in dealing with problems helps children learn to face difficult tasks with confidence and courage." 

Through Alexander’s “connectedness”, a child learns that he or she is valued regardless of success or failure, and thus develops the confidence to face any situation. This is in direct contrast to a parent who condemns or belittles a child for failure, which can only result in damaging the parent-child relationship, as well as the child's self esteem. As Dr. Alexander shows, support and encouragement are the path to motivation. It is through this connection that children come to find happiness through inner motivation, rather than external judgments.

Another benefit to connectedness is that when parents show children that their feelings are valued, children learn to value the feelings of others. Though a child's concerns may seem unimportant to an adult, by patient listening the parent reassures the child that they are important. Thus the child comes to understand how to listen by parental example. It is this type of warm exchange that helps to bring a family closer. Dr. Alexander shows us the case of Susan, a two year-old girl. While grocery shopping with her mother and older brother, Susan became eager to be let out of the shopping cart. Despite several attempts to gain her mother's attention, Susan was ignored, and began to cry. Her mother finally acknowledged her long enough to tell her to be quiet, and then returned to pretending not to hear the child's cries. That evening when their mother called them to dinner, Susan and her brother kept playing. The children had learned by their mother's example that it was not important to listen to others. A parent who is rude or disrespectful to a child can only expect rudeness and disrespect in return. 

Dr. Alexander also demonstrates that parents cannot restrain an upset child through anger; tolerance and creative problem solving are the key. Even when faced with rebellion in a child, parents must focus on easing the tension, rather than pushing a child further away with condemnation. In a relationship based on connectedness, parents assist children in seeking solutions instead of rejecting them. By remaining involved and showing trust in a child's judgment, parents will find situations can be resolved while deepening the family bond. Parents who permit a child choices will find that their child will rise to meet expectations. Through this process, children also learn to take responsibility for their actions and decisions as they mature into adulthood. 

Alexander points out that in today's world where families have so little time together, there is nothing more important than forging a deep and lasting bond. Children who feel a lack of connection to parents will resort to misbehavior to attract attention, even negative attention. The imposition of punishment and fear in response only serve to deepen the resentment and disconnection of the child. Parents who strive to achieve a close and affectionate relationship based on loving trust and support will find that their children in turn value their guidance and teachings. Thus it is possible to rear obedient children neither through strictness nor permissiveness, but rather through connectedness. The happy, well-adjusted child will become a happy, contributing member of society. As Dr. Theron Alexander teaches in his important book, A Better Childhood...without discipline, "...connectedness in the developing years begins a process that assures that things of the past, problems of the present, and challenges of the future will never diminish the sustaining bond between parents and children."

Alexander makes a cogent case that when “connectedness” becomes a factor in families’ daily lives, disciplinary measures such as rules, limits, or punishment become unnecessary.


“INTELLECTUALLY BRILLIANT”: Edwin P. Adkins, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Research and Program Development, Temple university

“GROUNDED IN THE LATEST RESEARCH AND PRESENTED IN AN INVITING AND POSITIVE WAY”: Donna Spiker, Ph.D., Division of Child Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine

“GREAT MERIT AS A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO RAISING CHILDREN”: Bill Lane, U.S. Ambassador, Member of the Board, Time Inc., former publisher, Sunset Magazine

“VERY EXCITING AS A PARENT”: Carolyn Johnson, President, Crail-Johnson Foundation

A BETTER CHILDHOOD…WITHOUT DISCIPLINEby THERON ALEXANDER, Ph.D., Xlibris-Random House Ventures.Paperback $19.94, Hardback $29.69, eBook $8.00.Sites through which book may be purchased include (tel. 1-888-795-4274),, and .