Picture this. You’re nine years old, and your mother just died. Your step-dad has abandoned you, so you’ve been taken to live with a family you’ve never met. You’re desperately hoping the man of the house will become the father you never had, but he’s, well, eccentric. Which is why his first assignment for you when you move into the family home is, “You gotta cut the head off a chicken.”

That bizarre scenario actually happened. To me! For kids raised on a farm, killing a chicken may not be a big deal. But for a city boy from Los Angeles, it was traumatic! My foster father wouldn’t take no for an answer, either.

“It’ll make a man out of you,” he insisted.

So, I bit my lip and did the deed because I was terrified of angering the newest authority figure in my life. But even at nine years old I knew that my new start in life was headed for trouble. My foster father meant well, but he didn’t realize how his call for me to “man up” would affect a kid like me.

Sadly, many fathers make a similar mistake. They think their abrasive tone and rigid demands are the right motivation for every child. But they’re not. Some kids are wired for tough love; others need an extra measure of sensitivity.

Effective parenting isn’t “one size fits all.” Instead, it takes into consideration the personality, temperament, and needs of the child.

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