Discipline is one of the hardest things to do as a parent. No one likes to interrupt a fun outing at the park, family movie time or even a dinner to discipline his or her child. As inconvenient and unpleasant as discipline can be, it is also necessary to the health of our children. Let me share with you a few tips that can help you discipline in a productive way that will help produce positive change.
- Don’t say it unless you mean it.
Parent: “Touch it again. I dare you. We will cancel this cruise right now. Seriously, I will tell the captain to take us back to port!” *spoken with quivering lips and eyes as sharp as knives*
Child: *touches forbidden item*
Parent: *stomps foot, points harder, shakes even harder and face floods with red* “I’m serious! One more time!”
Child: *Touches forbidden item again, completely calling your bluff*
Parent: “I am not kidding!”
You’ve probably been there. Don’t allow the heat of the moment to cause you to say something that you can’t follow through on.
- Make the punishment fit the crime.
The goal of punishment is to help show my kids, even though they can’t understand it yet, that the world operates in the same way. When my kids disobey me, or do what they know is not right, I discipline them. This sets up in their minds that there are repercussions for our actions. Consequences are real and they are a part of real life.
The discipline they receive now—whether it is going to time out, having something taken away or getting a spanking—pales in comparison to losing a job for insubordination because they don’t know how to follow instructions or finding themselves in handcuffs because they don’t know how to follow the law (rules).
In the same way that there are different levels of punishment based upon the crime in our society, I believe there should be different levels of discipline based upon the actions of our children. Remember, repeat offenders always get it a little harsher.
- Discipline out of love.
This one cuts to the heart of the matter. Check your motives in disciplining your children to make sure they are pure. I once heard someone say something to the effect of, “Adding ‘really’ to the end of a question can help you move past the superficial answer.’”
Why are you angry, really? Why are you disciplining your child, really?
These questions are so simple, but I believe they can really help define why we are doing what we’re doing.
- Don’t discipline while you’re angry.
It’s important to understand that anger is not good as a response to problems. It usually builds walls, increases tension, and contributes to distance in relationships. But we do believe that anger is good for identifying problems. Once you understand anger, you’ll be able to use it to your advantage to point out problems in life. Then you must move into another mode or plan to solve those problems.
One of the reasons we experience anger is to identify problems and injustice, but anger is not the avenue for solving those issues. Acting out in anger toward our kids solves nothing! When was the last time you really learned something or responded well from someone yelling at you?
Next time you find yourself at that boiling point, either remove yourself from the situation, or put the kid(s) in time out while you calm down and figure out the best course of action.
- Be consistent.
Consistency is one of the most important factors when it comes to discipline. Consistency builds habits. We want a habit of good behavior in our kids so they can grow up to be successful people who help solve problems, not add to them. Consistency will reinforce the idea that there are consequences for certain actions EVERY SINGLE TIME. When they begin to understand that, it makes them want to do it less. Inconsistency doesn’t work in physical training, at your job, in dieting or anywhere else. Why do we think it will in disciplining our kids?
6. Comfort and affirm them.
Nearly every time I discipline my kids, I comfort them with a hug and a kiss. They should know our hands are meant for comfort more than they are for discipline. This shows them that, “Yes, I was disappointed at your actions,” but communicates even louder that, “Yes, I love you.”
I also affirm them with my words. “You’re a good girl! That’s why Daddy was upset, because you are better than that. You are a kind and loving person, right?” The power of words is real. Speak things over your kids and watch them come to pass, whether positive or negative.
This holiday season let this blog guide you and your children into the best year ever.