Regardless of popular belief, children need discipline to become successful, well-rounded adults. It is important to note though, punishment and discipline are NOT the same thing. Discipline is training, instructing, and giving direction. It is TEACHING the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, as well as how to process and react to their emotions appropriately.
Children do not automatically understand how to deal with big feelings such as anger, sadness, disappointment and hurt. It is our job as parents to help them navigate through their emotions, knowing that its ok to feel the way they do and how they should react as a result. It’s ok to express frustration, but it’s not ok to hit others. It’s ok to feel sad and to cry, it’s not ok to scream and throw a tantrum. And so on.
As we teach our children to have a healthy balance between behaviors and emotions, we must also have rules and consequences in place to keep them safe and create boundaries. Here are some discipline techniques to use for successfully implementing rules and consequences in your home.
The Discipline Techniques That Really Work
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Involve Your Children in Creating Rules/Consequences
As a classroom teacher, I always involved my students in creating rules/consequences in our classroom. We discussed expected behaviors, how we should treat each other, and what should happen if a student chooses not to obey the rules. I found that most of the time, the students were harsher than me when determining acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, and the consequences for disobedience. If your children are old enough, I encourage you to follow this same process in your home. Have a discussion, establish expected behaviors and what will happen if the rules are not followed. This cultivates a sense of ownership and places the responsibility to act appropriately on your children.
Once you have worked with your children to create the rules they are to follow and what happens when they disobey, you must be consistent and follow through. Pre-determined consequences must always be enforced when your child intentionally breaks the rules. Consistency develops respect for boundaries while empty threats with no action will likely encourage unwanted behaviors. Always following through also helps your children understand that rules and consequences are the natural order of the world. To be successful in society and in the workforce, one must understand that laws are in place that must be followed or serious repercussions may have a negative impact on their lives, including jail time and/or loss of their job.
Model and Reinforce Positive Behavior
Discipline should not always be a negative response to an undesirable behavior. Acknowledging and praising appropriate behaviors can keep your children moving in a positive direction. It is also important to redirect inappropriate reactions by modeling how your child should have responded in a certain situation. I am currently working on modeling behaviors with my 5-year-old daughter. She doesn’t always react to her younger brother in an appropriate manner. When she is frustrated with him, her first reaction is to hit and push him. Along with consequences for her behavior, we discuss other ways she should have reacted. And when she reacts to him in a positive way, her father and I make a point to acknowledge and praise her good choices. Modeling and reinforcing acceptable behaviors is a process that requires patience and time. But if you are consistent, you will begin to see positive, lasting changes in your children’s actions and reactions.
Accept Age-Appropriate Behaviors and Ignore Unimportant Behaviors
Some behaviors are completely normal and age appropriate. You can’t expect small children to sit still and be quiet for long periods of time. Young children are messy and loud and we can’t assume they will act otherwise, especially at home. I suggest you plan ahead for long trips or special occasions with snacks, toys, and age appropriate activities to keep them busy (see my post How to Engage and Entertain Your Little Ones). Age appropriate behaviors should simply be ignored because they can’t be helped. As your children get older, their behavior changes, therefore their rules and consequences must change also. This is a great time to discuss expectations and get their input.
Do Not Discipline When You Are Angry
Sometimes our children test us to the limit. In these moments of intense frustration, it’s easy to yell, say and do things we don’t mean. I get it, I’ve been there more than once. But, sweet mama, when we react this way, we are doing the opposite of what we are trying to teach our children, how to control their emotions and respond correctly. If you feel you are at your breaking point, tell your children that their behavior is inappropriate and send them to their room until you can calmly address them and deliver the agreed upon consequences. And when you mess up and react in anger, because you probably will, apologize. This is a lesson in itself. We all make mistakes and its important that we admit we were wrong. It teaches our children to extend grace and forgiveness to others, and to work toward correcting their own poor decisions.
Resources for Positive Parenting
If your goal is to create a more positive relationship with your children and to learn more about positive discipline techniques, I encourage you to check out these resources on Amazon. Just click on the image to see the resource:
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Discipline is hard work and requires diligence and consistency. But it is so important that our children begin learning at an early age they have boundaries and certain behavior expectations. And they will learn to respect you, others, and the world around them.
Which of these techniques work well for you? Which ones do you struggle with? What are some other discipline techniques you have found helpful? Please share in the comments!
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