Three practical steps for discipline

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Raising children is hard work.

The pay is low or non-existent, but the rewards can be tremendous.

Part of raising good, healthy children is disciplining and correcting the child when he or she does something wrong. This sounds easier said than done.

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If we want our children to learn to make good choices, there needs to be consequences for when they make bad choices.

Here are three steps to help implement consequences:

 No arguing—This is a hard one to put in place because, as the parent, we feel like we need to have the last word but our children also feel like they have to have the last word. The parent’s goal is to use this incident as a teaching moment and to show the child that what they did is wrong.

The child’s goal is different from the parent’s—the child is either trying to get out of trouble or trying to convince the parent they are good. Either way, the child’s defenses go up and they are not even trying to hear what the parent is saying. Their goal is avoid the discipline or the thought that they did something wrong.

At this point, the parent’s arguments usually do not get through, they just bounce off of the child’s defenses and are met with an excuse, justification, rationalization, denial or apathy.

The parent responds and then the child responds, which brings the next response from the parent creating a reaction back from the child causing more and more escalation with neither party really open to what the other is saying. And neither the parent nor the child is going to give into what the other is saying.

Arguing is a great way to keep an argument going. The more we argue, the more the child is going to argue back.

  No emotion—I’m not saying don’t feel it—I’m saying don’t show it.

Sometimes we, as parents, think that by showing our kids how angry or hurt or upset we are that they will realize how wrong they are. How often does this really happen?

Emotion is not really an effective consequence for a child’s bad behavior. The consequence should be the consequence. Children are not more convinced they are wrong because the parent is crying or yelling. This just reinforces the child’s perception that they have power if they can push buttons in mom or dad and get this kind of reaction. It actually empowers them to continue arguing, excusing or stonewalling. This is a hard step also because, as parents, at times we do feel anger, frustration, disappointment, hurt, betrayal, misunderstood or taken advantage of.

Consistency—The more consistent the parent applies consequences for the child’s behavior, the more the child learns “if I do this then that will happen”—cause and effect thinking.

If the child is convinced they will not get caught or will not get in trouble if they get caught, they will probably continue to do what they were told not to do.

If mom or dad consistently throw out warnings or threats but very little follow-through there is no real reason for the child to stop what they are doing. Use consistent consequences.

When you get stopped for speeding by the state patrol, he’s not yelling or crying to show how wrong you are—he’s writing a ticket, the consequence is the consequence. He’s not arguing about how fast you were going or how everyone else drives fast—he’s writing a ticket, there is no argument.

If you want to argue you can take it up with the judge (but there may be a cost for that too).

The more consistently the speed limit is upheld, the more people abide by the speed limit. The same is true for our children.

You can make positive changes in your discipline approach that will bring out more consistent and effective changes in your children. If you are struggling with parenting issues or feel that you have children that are out of control, talk to a pastor, your doctor or a trained professional mental health counselor.