rethink discipline

3 Ways to Rethink Discipline

Most days, I feel like I’m losing the battle with teaching my kids right from wrong. Call it not speaking their language, but I resort to replaying the same lectures I’ve given a thousand times. In my house, I’m the “rules guy” and the guy who says no “all the time.” And I don’t want to be the guy who’s constantly taking stuff away from his kids. But if one of my kids misuses her phone, it’s always easier to take her phone away than it is to do the hard work of disciplining her in a way that will help her grow.

Discipline is not just about rules. It’s about training in a controlled way that facilitates change.

Discipline is not just about rules. It’s about training in a controlled way that facilitates change. Deep down, I know being a dad is more than being the rules guy. But if you’re anything like me, your rules don’t end up teaching what you’d hoped. You give rules and when your kids break those rules, you punish them. That’s pretty much it. This cycle seems to repeat. It’s exhausting. We need to rethink the ways we teach our kids. Here are 3 ways to rethink discipline.

1. Correction

Correction connects with your kid in a deeper way than punishment. Correction takes time to explain why something went wrong and gives ideas for how to correct the problem. The point is to train your kid to assess his or her own actions.

My go-to punishment is to take away my daughter’s phone. But I’ve learned it only creates a division between my daughter and me. I recently had a night of arguing with one of my kids. I couldn’t get her to understand what she was doing was wrong. I went to bed confused. Exhausted the next day, I realized I was doing what comes easy for me—telling my child what she should and shouldn’t do. I need to get better at helping my kids ask questions of themselves like, “Where did I go wrong?” and “What can I learn from this?”

2. Rebuke

Rebuke sounds old. I think dads use rebuke as discipline most often. The point is to quickly express disapproval. But we often rebuke wrongly. We are reactive and angry rather than intentional and firm. The spirit and tone of your rebuke matters. Sure, we need to speak the truth in love. But, if we rebuke correctly, we can help our kids feel the security they need most. We’re letting them know that they have crossed a boundary. Our rebuke shows consistency, and that consistency makes kids feel safe.

My five-year-old recently started kindergarten. He came home saying “I hate…” about everything, like “I hate bread!” and “I hate you!” Rebuke shows there are things worth expressing sharp disapproval of related to behavior. In my son’s case, I don’t necessarily need to have a chat about the English language or boundaries. No, those talks can happen as he ages. But when he says he hates me, he needs to know quickly that he’s done wrong. It’s time to give him a stern warning: “Listen—we don’t talk like that in our home.” The point is, rebuke the behavior at the moment but don’t be so harsh that you make your child feel like you’ll permanently be disappointed in him or her.

3. Encouragement

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, we read that we’re supposed to encourage the timid. The point of discipline is to help develop your kids and keep them on the right track. Encouraging kids when they do something right will help them develop. It’s preventative discipline. Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Our words carry a lot of weight whether we realize it or not. The more affirmation our kids receive, the more they will gravitate to what is right.

My oldest child is going through a precarious season. She’s started at a new school and is learning to navigate friendships, play a sport, and do well in her classes. Life is coming at her quickly and she’s trying to handle it all. In this season, correction and rebuking can be tough for her to take in. I don’t avoid those forms of discipline, but encouragement is received way better in this season. So that’s where I’m focusing.

Sound off: Which form of discipline does your kid need the most right now?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Which form of discipline do you think works best for you?”