These ten fundamentals of child discipline just might save you the next time you lose your cool with your kids. In working with many parents and children I feel parents need some essentials in their parenting tool box when it comes to how to discipline your kids. Be patient with yourself. Hang in there, like you, I can only do one at a time.
1. Discipline is about training instead of punishing.
Most adults don’t have fond memories of being punished. We do have positive memories when parents spoke to us lovingly and tried to help us. A good personal trainer has a plan for you and knows your strengths and limits. They reinforce those strengths but work and push you appropriately to develop your limits and push beyond them. Parenting is very similar. Our kids have great character strengths and flaws as well. A few questions to ask yourself when your child gets into trouble are: Is this because of one their weaknesses? And if so, how can I both encourage them and help them improve in that area? Also, how can I approach their problem in a new way they do not anticipate to foster more growth?
2. Correction is about how to live life rather than shaming.
When we shame our kids for messing up it can be taken personally deep into their unconscious where it affects their self-identity. But when it comes to kids we have to remember that they only have a fraction of their executive brain developed compared to us adults. So, no, they don’t know a lot. They mess things up and use things and objects in the home, yard and school the wrong way. Correction offers your adult brain to bond with their immature one to correct and teach how things are done. “Honey, here’s how we load the dishwasher to get as many in there as we can. Oh, and let’s get those green beans out.”
3. Reprimand is about teaching accountability starting with me first.
When we make a choice we are committed – no one else can be blamed. The best teaching on accountability is from the wise old saint… you. I hope there is at least one thing my kids have learned from me and that is to apologize. Because I have made so many mistakes in my parenting, and no one else is to blame but me. It’s on my account, not someone else’s. When my kids see me take accountability across the board in my personal life, family life, and professional life, they have the model of how to be accountable themselves. This humility makes the perfect context to teach them the same things.
4. Insight is about motives and feelings.
Can we really learn if we don’t understand? Understanding takes concentrated seeing and listening. And insight is connecting the personal dots over my motives of why I did or did not do something. This is how motives are refined, improved, and matured. This one is so critical according to the developmental age of the child. Older children do better thinking through their motives and how to improve them. This is because it takes abstract thought which begins somewhere around the ages of 9-12. We can help our children grow in their insight by sharing our own personal challenges when we were their age and how we realized how we felt at that time. Also, by talking a bit more on the emotional hues and shades in the different characters from the stories they read and even see on tv.
5. Consistency is King – inconsistency is a discipline process built on sand.
Know this for certain: when you decide to discipline your kids you will be tested. And when you decide to be consistent that itself will be tested as well. Here’s what consistency means. Consistency means that something around here matters! It yells, “GET THA MESSAGE!” Consistency in child discipline is huge. Without it, kids just won’t believe we’re serious. It will be very hard to teach the more complex and critical values your family believes in when you have not been consistent on the simplest of responsibilities in the household.
6. Consequences really are not unless they have teeth.
Why do we need consequences? Because it is an instructive tool. When all our kids lost dessert and candy for a week because one of them left a single candy wrapper on the floor they quickly learned that they better corral each other because if not they would all get the same consequence. Amazing, candy wrappers started going in the trashcan. By “having teeth” I don’t mean abusive/harsh/rough/physical. Kids just need to know that we are intentional and serious when we discuss choices and consequences.
7. United we stand – divided we lose.
Here is another test: between mom and dad. It is universal and natural that your kids will test you both on where you stand on issues in the home. All kids do this. They play you. Question: are you being played? How is this making your spouse feel? What matters is supporting your spouse in front of your kids. Differences in parenting are not to be worked out in front of the kids; they need to see you backing up each other. If you don’t they will later disrespect you for it. When we are united as a couple in our marriage we show that our spouse is important and valued and honored. Don’t tread on us.
8. Relatives need to affirm and support our parenting – not get in the middle.
I love it when I hear my in-laws and extended family tell my kids, “Listen to your dad/mom,” or “go ask your dad/mom.” This continues to send the message to our kids that there’s no getting around mom and dad. As fun as relatives are, even they should back up the parents. Are your personal extended family members getting in the way? It’s time to set some boundaries. You set boundaries with your side of the family; your spouse sets boundaries with their side.
9. Discipline is loving and respectful – not aggravating and resentful.
Our bodies are wired in such a way that we unconsciously pick up the vibe from each other just before we actually register anything consciously. We sense each other’s emotional states, moods, and even motives. Kids also do this without understanding it. If being loving isn’t a natural reflex for you with a certain child then plan ahead for it in your day. Like waking up or coming home and anticipating any possible conflicts with a certain child and intentionally focusing on love toward that particular child. This will help reduce your stress level.
10. Discipline is intentional – not reactive.
It is different to seek out your child in the house to help them learn to follow through on what you expect rather than to catch them and prove how irresponsible they are. When I was a young teen I had my own lawn mowing business. It sometimes annoyed me but my dad would sometimes come to my houses and check to be sure that I swept the sidewalks. Yes, this was during the prehistoric era when we used brooms and did not have blowers. He caught any speck of grass I missed and would gently point them out. Today. I. Am. Very. Thorough. Thanks, Dad!