discipline guidelines

Three Discipline Basics

When I was just out of college I lived with a family with young children. The oldest son wanted the toy his sister had so he imposed his will and grabbed it. The dad told him to give it back and his son shouted, “No!” and the battle of wills was on. The dad went over calmly and took his son kicking and screaming upstairs to his room. Moments later the dad came back down as screams from his son’s room continued to billow behind him. He looked at me with half a smile and calmly said, “I’m going to give him a little time to settle down.” Just then his son kicked the door loudly and the dad’s eyes went wide, “Wow. I think it might take a while this time.”

I was so impressed by this dad’s control and method. Discipline can be tough, but focusing on some fundamentals helps guide the process. The next time you need to set your kids straight remember these 3 discipline guidelines.

1. Be Clear and Hold the Line

The first step in non-negotiable discipline is to set up consequences for misbehavior in advance. Once those are in place, explain the consequences to your child so they know what to expect. Then, when disobedience occurs, calmly relay the consequences. At that point, don’t negotiate consequences with your children.

A friend of mine recently took a privilege away from his daughter for willful disobedience.  She lost the privilege of taking the car out Friday night.  Well, she wasn’t going to take no for an answer and pleaded with her parents to let her wash, wax, and clean the car instead.  But her parents stuck with their decision.

Establish clear, non-negotiable consequences for misbehavior ahead of time—then stick to them.

2. Keep It Private

Discipline is something that should be handled in private. Think about how you would feel if someone corrected you in front of other people. It’s humiliating.

So, when your child misbehaves, quietly acknowledge the misbehavior. Then, tell them that their consequences will follow when you get home. If you feel like you do need to address the issue right away, find a private place and handle it there. Disciplining in private is really a matter of respect. Even in moments of correction, we need to treat our children respectfully. [Tweet This] Now, an exception to the above is correction with very young children, 5-years-old or younger.

3. Stay Calm

Have you ever heard it said, “I was so angry, I couldn’t see straight?”  There’s some physiological truth to that statement. In his book, How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others and Resolve Conflicts, Dr. Robert Bolton says, “Emotional arousal actually makes us different people than who we are in moments of greater calmness.  When we are angry or fearful, our adrenaline flows faster and our strength increases by about 20 percent.”

That condition is ideal for escaping danger, but it is not the best frame of mind for calmly disciplining our children. Instead, it’s best to wait until the heat of the moment has passed.  If you need to, physically remove yourself from your child. Go into the next room if you have to, and calm down. Take some deep breaths or pray. If you can’t physically get away, resolve to hold your words until you are calmer. Then, clear your mind and review the consequences available for the current misbehavior. Once you have calmed down, share the consequences with your child.

Sound Off

What do you think is most important when disciplining children?

  • JT Scully

    Always make sure your children know you love them. Hate the behavior but Love the behaver.
    They’ll yell and pout at discipline but if they truly believe that they’re loved and you’re doing it in their best interests, they won’t permanently come off the rails.

  • Francisco d’Anconia

    Nice post. Children need two things: (1) Rules; and (2) Relationships [love]. When they are present together, the results are positively amazing.

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Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why is it important to be corrected when we are wrong?”

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