- How do I discipline my strong-willed child?
- How do I handle my child when he outright refuses to follow my instructions?
- Why do I have to repeat myself over and over again when I ask my child to do something?
Does this sound like something you are dealing with? Here are some tips and tools as well as critical ideas that you need to think about regarding the how, how, why and what of discipline.
Begin by checking your belief system.
Do you belief that you are being mean when you practice non-negotiable disciplinary rules?
If you belief this you are in trouble because your kids will see you vacillating every time the little voice in your head says, ‘Maybe I am being too harsh about this?’ The truth is that having fair and consistent rules is actually the very opposite of being mean. With consistently reinforced rules, the child has more control over his own life because he can accurately predict the results of his behavior. This reduces uncertainty for the child (how will mom/dad react this time…)?
Being a mean parent actually comes from having few rules or unpredictable application of the rules. When your child feels uncertain about how you could respond and has no way of controlling and predicting it, this raises their stress. Well- implemented rules place clearly defined boundaries around the child’s world and thus makes them feel more secure. That is certainly not being mean!
Do you believe that you owe the child a long explanation as to why you are disciplining them?
If you belief this you are in trouble because the kids now have you hooked like a fish on a fishing rod. Here’s what happens. You become annoyed by the child’s excuses, arguments and complaints. You then become involved in counter-arguments and counter-logic, explaining why what the child did was wrong and why there have to be consequences. Now the game is on! Children use excuses, arguments and complaints because they have learned that if they do this long enough, there is a chance that mom or dad will give in. Even if it happens once in every 20 times, kids still will try.
Change your beliefs:
Skillfully practiced discipline teaches kids good habits that will guide them for the rest of their lives. When you realize this, you will have a more positive feeling about the role of discipline in your lives. See it as a gift to your child. When practiced correctly, effective discipline make children feel secure and loved because they know that you are protecting and teaching them.
6 Key Tools for Healthy Discipline
Use the KISS Principle
Choose a few simple rules appropriate to your situation with your child. Choose the rules carefully. Focus only on a few issues that will have lasting value to your children. Too many rules become cumbersome to implement and can be stultifying to the child’s spirit. You need to find the balance between structure and freedom.
Rules are non-negotiable so choose those you are prepared to enforce.
To be effective the disciplinary rules have to be absolutely non-negotiable and consistent. NO exceptions to the rules. NO special permissions to violate them. This way, the rule is the rule, both parents are always on the same page and kids learn they cannot play one parent off the other.
Talk less! Use few words!
Consider this: The child is actually learning the art of cajoling, explaining, bargaining or threatening by watching you do it! Your words reinforce the game. The more you talk the more you are likely to get words back. What you are doing is actually reinforcing the very argumentative behavior you don’t want. So the skill is this:
- If you don’t want them to argue – don’t argue with them.
- If you don’t want them to complain – don’t complain to them.
- If you don’t want them to persuade you, don’t try to persuade them.
Keep the words to a bare minimum!
Withhold the goodies.
Decide on your best form of leverage with your kids. Consequences should be on all-or-none basis. For example, an effective consequence may be to remove access to all electronic toys and equipment for a stated period of time, as opposed to just removing their cell phone or X-Box, for example. Removing just their favorite electronic ‘toy’ is not enough because most kids have many others they can then turn to. The trick is that you will have to find the best way to get all this stuff under your control. This may include power cords for computers, electronic games, sports equipment etc.
5. State it and then Zip it
Clearly state what behavior needs to be changed and what the consequences would be if this is not adhered to. Use a short and simple sentence such as, “Just as soon as you (describe the behavior you want to see) … then you can ….(describe the reward). No more words!
6. Be strong and consistent
You may have to put up with door slamming, screaming and other negative behaviors in the beginning of the process. You need to be consistent until the new behavior patterns become well-ingrained habits.
In summary, practicing discipline is about teaching competence, responsibility and task persistence, as well as empathy, loving engagement, sound decision making, control over emotion, morality, self-understanding and much more.
It is much more humane, loving and caring to use effective rules of discipline that produce long-term success, than to give a child drugs that, at best, contain the behavior problem temporarily and do nothing for it, in the long term.
I would love to hear about your own challenges and experiences with disciplining your kids. Share with us what is working for you.