My Approach to Discipline

Love-Heart-02If you just became a parent you might not have given much thought to how you will discipline your child, yet it is the aspect of parenting that will have the most impact on your child from day one until adulthood.

My view is that effective discipline is created not as a reaction to an undesirable behavior, but as a way to instill self-discipline in your child. If you think it sounds like I’m one of those parents who let my kids run free and learn on their own, keep reading.

Where Do You Start?

Discipline doesn’t start when your kid messes up. It starts the day your child is born. And it starts with you, not your child.

1. You begin by building trust. Kids are more willing to listen to people they trust.

2. You gain trust by being consistent.

3. Let your expectations be known ahead of time.

4. Decide ahead of time what your magic word or action should be—the one that will stop a behavior. Some parents count to three.Some use a special tone of voice. Others, feel the need to use physical punishment as their way to show a child that they mean business (for more on this, please click here). Yet other parents only has to say no and say it once, and the child will listen.

5. To get to the point where the spoken word is and remains powerful, try this: Use the word no sparingly and only when you mean it and when you’re ready to enforce it. Children base their current behavior on past experiences. If you want the word to stop a behavior, it has to become your red light word that stops the child in her tracks. If you fail to follow through right away, it turns into a yellow light word, meaning your child will continue her behavior. (The only difference is, she will do it faster.) And if you use the word no with zero follow- through what so ever, it turns into a word you use only to cover your own parental butt. (That way you can say “I told you so” if something goes wrong.)

If you find yourself over-using the word no, you might want to add a few phrases to your disciplinary list and save the word for when you’re ready to enforce it. For instance: “maybe some other time”, “let me think about it”, ”ask me when we get home” or  “not now” are all effective for those times when you’re not ready or in the mood to give a definite answer.

6.. When trying to teach a child right from wrong, it can be very difficult to stay calm. You might notice that your child is tuning you out, so you begin to speak faster and louder. Before you know it, desperation sets in and you become an unrecognizable erupting volcano of words and feelings, worries and threats. It’s not pretty–and it’s not effective.I speak from experience.

Next time, you might want to try to do the opposite. That is, the more important your message, the fewer the words and the lower your volume ought to be. Just think about it, anything valuable we tend to use sparingly and carefully. Treat your message like it has value.

What If Your Child Doesn’t Obey?

So what are the consequences for not listening to a parent? It depends on the age of the child. During the first few years, it’s best to divert your child’s attention when you want to discourage a certain behavior.  Remove a child from a situation, replace an inappropriate item with a better suited one, or turn your back away from a child who uses bad behavior to gain attention.

As your child gets older, there will be times when she will decide to disobey or misbehave. That’s when it’s necessary to apply the brakes teaching your child that her actions and decisions have consequences.

The use of natural consequences is an effective approach to teaching self-discipline. A natural consequence is one that mimics the kind your child will encounter as an adult. For instance:

An older child who doesn’t clean her room might need extra training with added cleaning chores for a week.

A six year old who repeatedly behaves poorly in public might have to stay home the next time you go out for some fun activity.

A child who has a hard time getting ready for school might have to go to bed earlier at night to get some extra rest.

A child who doesn’t complete homework will get bad grades, missed playtime, supervised homework time or all of the above.

When to Ground Your Child

In my opinion, grounding is used way too often and becomes ineffective when used regularly and for too long a time. However, if a child repeats the same behavior time and time again, it might be necessary to ground her in order for her to get a chance to reset her own system.

Does this sound complicated? It might take some practice but it’s all common sense.  I promise, it will not be long until your child develops her own inner, self-regulating scale. How long depends a lot on how persistent you are as a parent. When it works, don’t stop. It works because you keep doing it.