how to improve discipline

5 Ways We Stink at Discipline

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I feel like I’m constantly arguing with my teenage daughter about something. Sure, she will bring a bad attitude and disrespect into the house. But I make things worse by making small things seem crucial. I’m not saying we shouldn’t make rules and set boundaries; there are times when punishment is necessary. But shouldn’t we teach in such a way that we connect rather than hurt?

“I don’t think I yelled at my kids as much as I should have” isn’t something I think you’ll say once your kids leave your house. I have a feeling you’ll wish you’d yelled less. You’ll wish you had taken more time to engage and discuss why they did what they did. We must learn how to improve discipline. Deep down, I think we understand that yelling, punishing, or arguing isn’t the way to teach. In fact, they’re among the worst things we do as dads. Here are 5 other ways we stink at discipline.

Yelling, punishing, or arguing isn’t the way to teach. In fact, they’re among the worst things we do as dads.

1. We don’t discipline based on age.

It’s belittling to discipline older kids as if they are still young kids. It’s flat-out unhelpful to discipline young kids like older kids. Point is—age matters. You discipline one way with young kids and another way with older kids. As your kid matures, you’ll find it’s easier to discuss issues with her and point out when a behavior is wrong.

2. We don’t discipline based on the child.

Discipline is meant to teach, not simply punish or hurt a child. Knowing that, what works with one child will not work with another child. I’ve found with three kids, each kid is different. I can say “I’m disappointed” to one child and crush him. With another child, she might reply, “Well, I’m disappointed in you too.” Learn to try different forms of discipline and see what works.

3. We don’t discipline in love.

Discipline in such a way that your child still feels loved. Sure, you will have to give consequences for bad behavior. But be sure your kids know you’re not saying they’re bad—you’re saying the behavior is bad. Look for a time during or after disciplining your child to say, “Listen, Dad loves you. I think you’re a good kid. I discipline because I think you’re up to it and you’re able to learn.” Depending on how you word it, your kid can learn and yet be encouraged at the same time.

4. We don’t discipline with the future in mind.

Fixing a bad behavior in the moment is one reason to discipline. But we must never forget the long-term effects of our discipline. Our goal should be to create mature individuals who respect authority, respect others, and respect themselves. In learning how to improve discipline, we know it can’t only be about punishing or taking stuff away. Like a good coach who disciplines a weak performance with running extra laps after practice, our calling is to use discipline to make our kids better.

5. We don’t discipline consistently.

We can get all four of the above correct, but if we fail to do them consistently, we’re missing something. Kids gain security when we’re consistent. Our kids should know the rules and know what’s going to happen if they don’t follow them. We don’t wing it with discipline. No, because we love our kids, we are here, on the clock, doing our jobs to raise kids who are taught right from wrong.

Sound off: If there’s one of these wrong ways to discipline that you do, how will you improve your discipline going forward? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “When you get in trouble, do you still feel like I love you?”