Positive & Effective Ways to Discipline Your Children

It’s so very easy to get overwhelmed with parenting – especially if we don’t have a plan. Finding simple tips for parenting that really work would definitely be win!

So I will share with you that for my employment, I have done a lot of research into parenting strategies to find what really works. Taking information from many experts, I have found the following plan to work rather well for many families.

Make Expectations and Rules Clear

Expectations

First, making expectations clear is best accomplished by stating what you want or do not want behaviorally. Behaviors are things people do such as: Kicking, fighting, standing, whining, yelling, listening, not listening, doing homework, washing dishes, picking up trash, throwing trash in the floor, and so forth. If I ask my son to be good when we go to the store, that does not tell him clearly that I want him to “keep his hands on the cart,” “not beg for things,” or “walk in the store.” Therefore, stating clearly by describing behaviors that are desired or off-limits is one good way to be clear about expectations.

Rules

Next, I usually suggest making rules clear through making a list of household rules. This strategy often works better if the children are involved when drafting these rules. Ask your kids what some of the rules are and they can often tell you quite quickly. (Of note, some families need rules for different areas of their lives as well – such as school/out in the community.) When designing your rules, I suggest keeping the list around 5 so that they can be memorized. Another suggestion I make is to make the rules simple and general enough to cover many different behaviors. For example, my list of rules might include “Be respectful toward yourself and others.” Then, if one child hits, kicks, speaks rudely, or breaks a toy of his or another’s, that rule has been broken and the child has earned a consequence.

Sample Rules:

  • Treat one another like you want to be treated
  • Use your manners
  • Pick up / Clean up after yourselves
  • Walk (don’t run) when indoors
  • Use your inside voice when indoors

Be Consistent in Your Discipline

An example of having good consistency might be as follows. Let’s say I have a household rule that says running is not allowed in the house. Then, let us say that I give a consequence 8 or 9 times out of 10 when the rule is broken. In this instance, my consistency rate is reasonably high. I am teaching my child that I mean what I say. On the other hand, let’s say I have the same rule, but choose to lecture, yell, or only give a consequence 3 times out of 10. In this example, my consistency rate is low. This would lead my child to think that there’s a low probability that something will happen if he breaks the rule. In that scenario, I am teaching my child that I don’t mean what I say.

Follow Through with Action

Something that many experts agree on is that lectures and yelling do not work effectively. They also agree that actions speak louder than words. Therefore, it is important to give a consequence when the child has earned it. Also, if a parent uses too many warnings instead of following through with action, he is teaching the child that he does not mean what he says.

Example of what not to do

Here is an example of using too many warnings or lectures: “Johnny, stop picking on your brother. Johnny! Didn’t I tell you to stop! Johnny, if you don’t stop picking on your brother, you’re going to bed early. Johnny, I’m not kidding. If you keep it up, you’re going to your bed early.”

Try this instead

As a parent, warning over and over is a bad habit to get into. Instead, give a consequence and follow through on it. I suggest making a list of rewards for following the rules and negative consequences for breaking the rules. (Note: Start with the smallest reward/consequence and work up to the larger ones.)

Reward Examples (based on your child’s interests – These do not have to be expensive):

  • Praise, high fives, fist bumps, thumbs up
  • Treat / snack
  • Pick what’s for lunch / where to go eat
  • Time outside (for X minutes)
  • Time with mom/dad/grandma/friends, etc.
  • Pick an outing/activity (Pick with parent’s approval: Park, library, bicycle, swimming, fishing, store, Zoo, picnic, camping, make s’mores, make fortes, indoor campout, movie night, rent a movie, sporting event, game night, etc.)
  • Earn time on electronics (TV, tablet, phone, game systems, etc.)
  • Earn allowance

Negative Consequence Examples:

  • Time out
  • Go to bed early
  • Lose time outside
  • Lose time with friends
  • Lose outings (Ex. Park, library, Zoo, etc.)
  • Lose time on activities: Bicycle, skate board, etc.
  • Lose time on electronics (TV, tablet, phone, game systems, etc.)
  • Grounded
  • Allowance docked (Ex. I might dock/charge a child 0.25 cents for each shirt I pick up)

Connection and Empathy (when giving consequences)

Connection

In doing research into parenting, many experts agree that connection with the child has to come before rules and consequences. They indicate that if the child feels that the parent is only interested in themselves and what they want, then, it is likely that they will not follow the rules or instruction. For example, if a parent is often drilling their child to “Clean your room,”
Do your homework,” or “Mow the yard,” the child may start to think that the parent just wants him to work all the time. If on the other hand, the child has learned through a loving connection that the parent has his best interests at heart (e.g. To teach him the values of responsibility and independence so that he can succeed in life), his attitude is likely to be different.

Empathy

Next, the use of empathy with consequences helps a parent maintain connection with their child. Empathizing with your child about a poor choice they made is good – as long as you still give the consequence that was earned. For example, Let’s say that my child broke curfew. I could say, “How sad. It looks like you have chosen to lose your outings this week.” In this scenario, my use of empathy serves the purpose of helping me maintain connection, enforce that I mean what I say, and teach a value lesson about responsible behavior. (The use of empathy does not mean that the child will not get angry. It just helps to keep the connection intact.)

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