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Are you ready for discipline? 4 simple steps to get you started.

Are you ready for discipline?  4 simple steps to get you started.

Children are naturally born with desire and preferences. From the first moments of life, we see our children exert their natural characteristics. This is the beauty of individuality. Yet, our little ones do not know what is good or bad for them. They have no life experience, they cannot anticipate the consequence of their actions, and they have no way of controlling their desires and impulses if we do not teach them how.

Discipline is simply the way in which we show our children how we want them to behave in order that they are safe, well nourished, physically strong and healthy, and pleasant to be around. We teach them these life lessons to help them be successful in groups, school, and the community.

How should children be disciplined?

A few guiding principles are all you need to safely and effectively discipline your child:

1. Set limits and stick to them. Children can only learn limits and boundaries if we, as parents, consistently enforce them. Children learn best, and most quickly, when we apply the same limits and behavior expectations at all times. It is ineffective to create rules outside the home that are not also enforced at home.

Example: If we want our child to sit at the table, eat with a fork, talk quietly and not scream at the dinner table, then we need to practice those behaviors at home with our child consistently so that when we go out to eat they can comply with our wishes.

2. Limits are not negotiable with the child. Our child does not know what is best for them. Their desires are free desires that can arise from many motivations. It is not for them to choose their limits. We, as parents, know what is best. It is our responsibility to have our children meet our expectations. Children can try to resist, but we must help them complete our directions, in the manner we choose, not them. It is important that we, as the parent, retain the power.

Example: If we want our children to turn off the television and go to bed when we tell them it is bedtime, then we cannot say “Yes” when they ask for “5 more minutes.”

3. Teach about rights and obligations. Everyone is born with both rights and obligations. When we live in community, such as a family, each member has rights and obligations to meet so that everything runs smoothly. Teaching children from a young age about rights and obligations helps them understand how following rules (obligations) helps them receive their rights.

Example: A 4-year-old doesn’t want to put on her shoes independently; she wants Mom to do it. Mom has told her that if she wants to go to the park to play, she must put on her shoes like a big girl. Mom gives her daughter 5 minutes to put on her shoes. If she puts on her shoes within 5 minutes, they will go to the park. If she doesn’t complete the task in the time limit, Mom explains there is no time to go to the park to play because all the time was wasted waiting for her to put on the shoes. It is important Mom doesn’t allow a longer time span for putting on shoes or she loses her authority (see #2).

4. Keep discipline as discipline. It is helpful when parents are clear that discipline is happening. The child should not be confused about the parent’s intention or motive. When a child has done something that needs correction, an immediate shift in composure should occur in the parent to catch the child’s attention and let the child know discipline is occurring. Usually, this shift in composure includes: using the child’s name, direct eye contact, a lower voice, a stern face, and a clear, candid conversation (which is developmentally appropriate) about what is not right and how to correct it. Afterwards, the parent returns to their normal composure to show that the teaching moment is over.

Use of sarcasm or joking can be unclear to children. Also, asking rhetorical questions can be confusing. Children may not know when parents are disciplining or being humorous. Setting a clear standard for discipline clarifies the situation.

Example: Billy knows that he is not allowed to play ball in the house. Billy ignores this family rule and accidently makes a picture fall off the wall. Dad hears the noise and calls Billy’s name. When Billy is front of Dad, Dad says in a low voice with a serious face, “You know that our family rule is not to play ball in the house. You did not follow that rule and as a consequence, a picture has broken. You are grounded this weekend and will be doing extra chores. Now, go and clean up the mess made by the broken picture. We will talk more late about the chores you will need to do.” Later Billy and Dad discuss the importance of rules and family norms.

Discipline can seem harsh to some parents, but when given from a source of love and caring it becomes a tool to raise happy and confident children. We are all bound to some level of discipline in our lives – such as the police in the community, our bosses in our jobs, or the regulatory agencies in our governments (i.e. tax authority). Children need to learn discipline from us so they can practice self-control which will make them confident and secure.

Want to learn more about discipline by age group? Please see What Can I Expect From My Child? Limit Setting and Discipline by Age Group

Knowledge is Power

  • What new information did you learn from this posting?
  • Did it help you identify something in your family you would like to change?

Share your experience below and what steps you plan on taking to guide your family.


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Monday, 26 August 2019

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Dr. Deanna Marie Mason

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