As adults, we teach our children how to follow rules, get along in society, and determine right from wrong. We have to provide discipline and guidance to help our children correct and learn from their mistakes.
Choose appropriate consequences. What consequences you use with your children should be thought through carefully to determine whether you are teaching, correcting, guiding, or punishing. Asking yourself questions about what you want to accomplish with your child when they misbehave—versus reacting quickly within the moment—will help you to become a more effective parent.
Make sure your discipline is coming from the right place. Discipline should come from an attitude of loving and caring for your child, not from a stance of anger. Discipline should never involve personal attacks. Try hard not to compare children to their siblings or to motivate with threats. Before correcting your child, try to take a deep breath, walk away, and ask your child to give you a moment. Use this time to cool down and regroup, and then prepare what you are going to say and how you want to say it.
Reflect on appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Encourage kids to think about their behavior and what behaviors they can choose next time. This gives them a chance to understand their behavior, its consequences, and to think through different actions for the future. Ask them several questions and be open to their responses. Be careful not to ask “why” questions, as most adults and children perceive “why” questions as accusatory. Try asking them what they did wrong, how they might act differently next time, and what a better solution to the problem would be. If you are going to give them a consequence, now is the time to let them know gently and help them to process and deal with their consequence.
Reconnect with your child. Make sure the relationship you have worked so hard for has not been damaged. Express to your child that you love him or her very much, but the behavior was a poor choice. Remember that children and teens watch the adults in their lives. By being consistent in your discipline techniques, they will understand that they are loved and valued. Children will come to learn how much you care for and treasure them.
Make sure to talk with your child about making good decisions at a variety of random times and situations. Allowing them to make mistakes occasionally will help them learn from experience and develop their independence. If a specific discipline problem continues, or escalates, it may be masking a different problem altogether. Seek out the expertise of a knowledgeable therapist or pediatrician.
© Copyright 2010 by Jeffrey Gallup. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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