How many times have you been upset with your child’s behavior and felt regret from the way you handled it?
Being a competent parent takes a lot of skill and wisdom.
Each child is different and responds uniquely to discipline approaches. Discipline is not about punishment; it is about teaching children to make the right choice.
As a parent it is important that you know what your goals are with your children. Write these down and read them often to align your discipline style with what you are trying to teach your children.
Some examples of parenting goals might be:
• Raising my children to make good decisions
• Raising my children to persevere and overcome obstacles
• Raising my children to be confident in their abilities
• Raising my children to contribute to their home and community
• Raising my children with a strong spiritual foundation
Once you define your goals, you can determine your discipline style. Some examples of discipline style might be:
• Laid back and lenient
• Strict and regimented
• Supportive and loving
• Rules and structure
• Involved and engaged
Once you determine your discipline style, write it down and read it regularly. This will help keep you on track with your progress as a parent. You will know if your parenting style is working based on the way your child is responding. If your child is cooperative and developing in healthy ways, keep doing what works! If your child is defiant and not developing healthy coping skills, you need to incorporate a different style of parenting that is more conducive to their growth and development. If you have more than one child, you may need to have a different style of parenting for each, based on the child’s age, gender, personality, and emotional or physical disabilities. There are many books, articles, videos, counselors and groups that offer parenting tips and support. Taking the time to learn effective parenting will make a significant difference in your children’s lives.Although you may desire to be a good parent and your children may desire to please you, you are going to make mistakes and so are they. As your children develop, they will confront you with new behaviors, moods and circumstances.
When they do, here are some practical and positive disciplining strategies you can try:
1. Talk to your children like they are valuable. This gains their respect and motivates listening. When you discipline them ask yourself, “How would I have wanted my parent to talk to me when I was their age?” Yelling or criticizing children closes them off to communicating why they did what they did and leads to low self-worth.
2. Build a relationship with your children by playing with them and doing what they like. Quality time gives children the message you value them. They will want to please you. Disciplining without a quality relationship leads a child to act out and have underdeveloped relationship skills.
3. Warn your children of what their consequence will be if they continue unacceptable behavior. This gives them an opportunity to make a good choice. For example, “If you don’t clean your room, you cannot have a sleepover tonight.” Or “If you are not home by 8 pm tonight, then I will take your technology devices away for 24 hours.” Disciplining with a warning teaches children that their behaviors have consequences.
4. Don’t extend the discipline long-term. This reinforces children’s negative behavior and leads them to having a negative attitude. It also sends a message that they should be punished for their mistakes, rather than being corrected, and learning from their errors. Verbalize to your children that, ‘Tomorrow is a new day and I trust that you will make a better choice.’ Encouraging your children leads to long-term positive change.
5. Teach your children alternatives to their unacceptable behavior, so they gain skills in making a better choice next time. If you discipline your children without teaching them a better option, then they will repeat the same unacceptable behavior when they are in that situation again.
6. Teach your children how to calm themselves so they do not become reactive when things do not go their way. Some children calm themselves by being with someone nurturing. Some children calm themselves by being alone. Notice what helps to calm your children, and help them develop self-soothing strategies.Reacting to your children using anger, impatience, or intolerance teaches them to disconnect from their inner guidance and become guarded in their relationships.
7. Do not hand off the discipline role to someone else, or your children will undermine your authority as their parent. This can lead them to disrespect authority figures.Be confident with the rules you set for your children, so they feel secure with you as their parent. Many parents want their children to like them. Children are not going to like being disciplined! Adults don’t like being disciplined either. However, discipline trains us to become our best self. This process is not easy, but it is for our highest good.
8. Be consistent and follow through with what you tell your children you will do. Make sure your boundaries are realistic and practical. Threats such as, “You are grounded for a month” or “You can never go to your friend’s house again!” may not be something you can enforce. Consistently following through with the consequences teaches children boundaries with themselves and their environment. Not carrying out the action you say leads children to have weak boundaries with themselves and others. It teaches your children that they don’t need to honor what they say they are going to do.
9. Take time outs when you become upset at your children’s behavior. Intense feelings impair your judgment and ability to think clearly, which leads to reactive parenting. Taking a time-out allows you to calm your emotions and think about what you want to teach your children before you discipline them. Not taking time outs when you are upset leads children to be reactive, rather than role modeling managing your emotions in healthy ways.
10. Seek to understand why your children made the choice they did. This strengthens your connection with them and allows for communication, processing, and insight into better decision making.
As your children get older ask them if they think you are a good parent. Ask them how you could be a better parent to them. Ask them what they like and don’t like about the way you parent them. Your children can share information that helps you become a better parent, because how you parent leaves a permanent imprint on their lives.
Disciplining your children shows them you care about their character, success and ability to govern themselves.