Being a Good Disciplinarian
Enforce reasonable rules. Enforce rules that apply to every person leading a happy and productive life — not model rules of your ideal person. It’s important to set rules and guidelines that help your child develop and grow without being so strict that your child feels like he can’t take a step without doing something wrong. Ideally, your child should love you more than he fears your rules.
- Communicate your rules clearly. Children should be very familiar with the consequences of their actions. If you give them a punishment, be sure they understand the reason and the fault; if you cannot articulate the reason and how they are at fault the punishment will not have the discouraging effects you desire.
- Make sure that you not only set reasonable rules, but that you enforce them reasonably. Avoid overly harsh forms of punishment, ridiculously stringent punishments for minor infractions, or anything that involves physically hurting your child.
Control your temper as much as you can. It’s important to try to be as calm and reasonable as you can when you explain your rules or carry them out. You want your children to take you seriously, not fear you or think of you as unstable. Obviously, this can be quite a challenge, especially when your children are acting out or just driving you up the wall, but if you feel yourself getting ready to raise your voice, take a break, excuse yourself or let your kids know that you are beginning to get upset.
- We all lose our tempers and feel out of control, sometimes. If you do or say something you regret, you should apologize to your children, letting them know that you’ve made a mistake. If you act like the behavior is normal, then they will try to mimic it.
Be consistent. It’s important to enforce the same rules all the time, and to resist your child’s attempts to manipulate you into making exceptions. If you let your child do something he or she is not supposed to do just because he or she is throwing a tantrum, then this shows that your rules are breakable. If you find yourself saying, “Okay, but only once…” more than once, then you have to work on maintaining more consistent rules for your children.
- If your child feels like your rules are breakable, he’ll have no incentive to stick to them.
Be a united front with your spouse. If you have a spouse, then it’s important that your children think of you as a united front — as two people who will both say “yes” or “no” to the same things. If your kids think that their mother will always say yes and their father will say no, then they’ll think that one parent is “better” or more easily manipulated than the other. They should see you and your spouse as a unit so there’s order in your high school, and so you don’t find yourself in a difficult situation because you and your spouse don’t agree on certain things when it comes to raising the kids.
- This doesn’t mean that you and your spouse have to agree 100% about everything having to do with the kids. But it does mean that you should work together to solve problems that involve the children, instead of being pitted against each other.
- You shouldn’t argue with your spouse in front of the children. If they are sleeping, argue quietly. Children may feel insecure and fearful when they hear parents bickering. In addition, children will learn to argue with each other the same way they hear their parents argue with each other. Show them that when people disagree, they can discuss their differences peacefully.
Provide order for your children. Your kids should feel like there’s a sense of order and a logic to things in their household and in their family life. This can help them feel safe and at peace and to live a happy life both in and outside of their home. Here are some ways that you can provide order for your children:
- Set boundaries such as bedtimes and curfews, so they learn that they have limitations. By doing so, they actually get a sense of being loved and cared about by their parents. They might rebel at those boundaries, but inwardly enjoy knowing that concerned parents guide and love them.
- Encourage responsibility by giving them jobs or “chores” to do and as a reward for those jobs give them some kind of privilege (money, extended curfew, extra play time, etc.). As “punishment” for not doing these jobs, they have the corresponding privilege revoked. Even the youngest of children can learn this concept of reward or consequence. As your child grows, give them more responsibilities and more rewards or consequences for completing those responsibilities or ignoring them.
- Teach them what is right and wrong. If you are religious, take them to the religious institute that you follow. If you are an atheist or an agnostic, teach them your moral stance on things. In either case, don’t be hypocritical or be prepared for your child to point out that you are not “practicing what you preach”.
Criticize your child’s behavior, not your child. It’s important to criticize your children’s actions, instead of your actual child. You want your child to learn that he or she can accomplish whatever he or she wants through his or her behavior, instead of being stuck being one kind of person. Let him or her feel like he has the agency to improve his behavior.
- When your child acts out in a harmful and spiteful manner, tell him or her that such behavior is unacceptable and suggest alternatives. Avoid statements such as: “You’re bad.” Instead, say something like, “It was very wrong to be mean to your little sister.” Explain why the behavior was bad.
- Be assertive yet kind when pointing out what they have done wrong. Be stern and serious, but not cross or mean, when you tell them what you expect.
- Avoid public humiliation. If they misbehave in public, take them aside, and scold them privately.
This is Part 2 of How to Be a Good Parent