Discipline

Discipline comes from the word disciple; a student, one who follows and learns. Discipline is not the same as punishment. The goal is to help our children become self-disciplined, so they can become fully functional adults.

But sometimes kid's are naughty! You'd think they would know better, but sometimes they don't, and sometimes they're just pushing your buttons to see what they can get away with. Right?!

Well, whatever the reason for their mischievous behavior, it takes some management. Finding the right tools to help our kids learn & grow can take some work. Related Posts: Happens at the Wrong Time, Hyped Up Holidays

Some parents find one method and stick to that, like "Magic 1-2-3". I've seen a lot of parents manage misbehavior well with just this one method. Not me though, maybe I didn't start it early enough, but my son said, "Oh, you're not going to use that method that so-and-so's mom uses, no way!" (Smarty pants.) If you can do it, the benefit of one method is consistency and it's easier for you.
Other parents have a tool box of methods, different tools for different situations. The benefit of this way is that  you keep them guessing, you can outsmart your kids. However, you have to be a little more creative, think a little more about what discipline tool fits the situation. That can be hard when you're tired and stressed out, and the kids are just out of control.
Personally I think I've used every method in the world (even some bad ones) especially with my last son, the strong willed wonder. I read book after book and pulled my hair out trying to get some cooperation. Well I'm happy to say that we both learned a lot and he's a very nice teenager now. (They do grow up, sometimes better than we expect.) Behavior management is as much for our own sanity as it is for their benefit.

So I've made a little list to help you out. I've listed a discipline method with a short description of how & when to use it, and links for more information and books. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me.

The Parent's Toolbox
(click on topic titles to read posts on these methods)
Redirect – Logical thinking begins to develop around age 3, so before that we need to do a lot of protecting & redirecting. Even as kids get older we can help them avoid negative behavioral outbursts by suggesting a new activity before things get out of control.

Lend A Hand – Young children can be easily overwhelmed, frustrated or upset by tasks that seem easy to adults, such as getting dressed, tying shoes, or cleaning up toys. Ask them if they need help, especially if they seem overly stressed, tired, sick, hungry or have had a bad day. Don’t do it for them though; do it together because it will help them learn the value of working together.

Set Limits & Rules - Making rules and limits clear is very important, especially for strong willed children. However there are methods to teach rules and limits that can help our children better accept parental authority and learn the value of obedience. I recommend reading more on this subject.

Time OutTime to step back and calm down. This is not a punishment, it’s a chance to cool off and think things through. The rule is one minute per year of the child’s age, and it works best when started early, between 2 and 4 years old. However it’s also a useful tool for adults to model when you have really had enough. Just say, “Mommy is taking a “Time Out” and I suggest you do the same.”

 Give Fair Warning (Magic 1-2-3)This can be used together with most other discipline methods. It’s offering the child a chance to stop and change their behavior before further discipline is needed. You let them know their behavior is headed in the wrong direction; restate your expectations for proper behavior one more time if necessary. Let them know if you have to intervene a third time there will be a consequence.

Impose Logical Consequences/Repair the DamageIf you spill something, clean it up. If you break something, fix it. If you hurt someone, apologize. If you do a job poorly, do it over or better next time. These are the things we want our children to learn. Asking them to repair the damage (or showing them how) works far better than punishment.

Allow Natural ConsequencesYou can suggest and you can remind, but don’t rescue. If a child continually forgets to do something (like take their lunch or instrument to school, or wear gloves in winter) let them experience the natural results. Within reason of their age and safety, responsibility is often learned best through natural consequences.

Ignore the Behavior (Choose Your Battles)Is it really worth the battle? Is this a behavior that my child will naturally grow out of if I don’t intervene? Sometimes we need to ask ourselves these questions because focusing too much on negative behavior can cause it to increase. Children want attention even if they have to get it through bad behavior. Even teenagers will sometimes “try on” different looks or behaviors to get a reaction. They still want parental guidance and approval, so focus on the positive and ignore what’s likely to be a passing phase.

Take Away A Privilege – Children need to learn that they are given a lot, and some things can be taken away. Watching TV, playing on the computer, even time with friends or favorite activities can be considered a privilege given because we have fulfilled our responsibilities. Behaving nicely so we can all get along well is our human responsibility, so taking away a privilege for bad behavior is a logical consequence.


Give A Privilege -  Not to be confused with bribery! Bribery happens as a last resort when we have already lost control of the situation; try to avoid this. Giving a privilege or reward is something planned ahead. “You can use the car to go to the movies as long as you are back by curfew.”  

Negotiate - Do not negotiate with little ones, they need to learn the rules and how to cooperate. As kids get older they need an increasing amount of involvement in decision making about their activities. Negotiation is a good skill for preteens & teens to learn, but keep your expectations clear.
Mutual Problem Solving - Discuss your views with preteens & teens in a calm manner. Sometimes you can ask them what they think is right, or fair, before stating your own opinions. This builds trust and mutual respect. Many times they are unsure of their own feelings about a situation and they are seeking your guidance. One time my daughter asked me if she could go someplace with her friends knowing that it was a questionable activity, when I hesitated to answer she said, “You can say no, Mom.”

Avoid Power Struggles - Have confidence in your authority as a parent without being overbearing. It is easier said than done. Often strong willed children push us into power struggles because they have trouble controlling their impulses and desires. Staying calm and in control of our own reactions is the first step in avoiding power struggles. Read this article by Clay Thomas for more insight.


Scolding - Because kids are immature, they don’t always remember how we expect them to behave in every situation. When you think they should have known better but didn’t, sometimes a quick “talking to” will solve the problem. Firmly state your disapproval of the behavior, and your expectation for appropriate behavior; then tell them you will give them another chance to behave properly. Avoid blame & shame by speaking to them privately.


Spanking -  As a general rule I don’t approve of spanking because it often happens out of parental anger. Also it models a violent solution to problems instead of teaching and helping our children learn to behave properly. However, there are times with children under 3 when a quick spank to stop a dangerous or out of control behavior (such as running into the street or touching the hot stove) can work. This is because children under 3 don’t understand natural or logical consequences. However, there are so many other methods we can use that I would suggest avoiding spanking as much as possible, and completely when the child id old enough to understand the rules and consequences.