Disciplining Our Kids: Good or Bad, Right Or Wrong?

Photograph by fatherhood.about.com

“If you have to resort to violence, threats and yelling as a parent then your child has already lost the opportunity to learn something of value from you”–JC

Every generation has it’s challenges with parenting and demonstrating appropriate parenting skills. Some want to ‘spare the rod’ and others want to let the kids decide-permissive parenting. Still others prefer the ‘democratic style’. I have made my share of mistakes as a parent and have learned much along my way. I’m in no position to give advice about “how to . . .” so what I decided to do here is to pass on some of what I have learned that makes sense to me and if it fits for you and your family-great. If not, well, move on to the next article or column I guess.

1. This is/was most important for me.

If we have more than one child we cannot treat and discipline all of our children using the same rules and the same approaches. They are NOT the same. They are individual human beings with different views, emotions and needs. Being such they need to be parented differently as well. I’m not saying that one should ” get away with certain behaviours when we don’t allow the others to do that.” If there is a need to discipline a child than that’s what has to happen. It becomes important that the type of parenting style matches the behavioural style of the child. As parents we need to meet the child where he/she is and not the other way around.

2. What we do needs to teach something.

As parents we need to understand the vast difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment, too often, is ‘painful’ or violent. There is NO value to the child when this happens. The consequence that is meted out needs to be explained so that he/she understands why he/she is in trouble. The consequence needs to have a moral or value based message attached to it. We are hoping that the message encourages taking responsibility for what happened.

I have learned this: You can beat an animal until it complies with your demands. You can do the same with a child. However, both will come back to ‘get even’ at some point. Threats and power never teach but they do scar a child’s emotional well being. Bullying is often a side effect.

3. Did we, as parents, play a role in our child’s behaviour?

Remember that our kids watch us, listen to us and follow our lead. We are their teachers and their role models. Monkey see–Monkey do.  We need to be sure that what they are learning by what we are doing is appropriate so that they are not working out their ‘stuff’ because of what we taught them. It can be very confusing to a child to be disciplined or punished for something they thought was OK because they saw a parent do the same thing.

4.  Be sure the playing field is level.

Do we want this to be presented as a teachable moment or a moment of intimidation and fear. Sit down at a table across from each other to deliver your message. Look at the picture at the top of the page and ask yourself just how BIG does dad look to junior here especially when they are close together. Fear does not promote a long term solution to a short term problem.

 5. Do it as a family.

This is a family problem and therefore any disciplinary statement needs to be made with both mom and dad present at the table. It promotes a sense of stability with parents-they both agree–and it provides a sense of security with the child. The worst thing one parent can say to the child–” you just wait ’till your father gets home”. It sets up dad to be the bad guy and makes mom out to be a wuss. Who would you pick on next time if you are a kid here?

6. Make sure your emotions are well in check.  

As parents we can quickly and easily get out of control. We love our kids and we don’t want to have to discipline them. All part of the deal unfortunately. Don’t feel as though you have to rush through it and get it over with. Know what you and your partner want to say and need to say. You lose control over the tone and volume of your voice and the kids will tune you out. They will learn little except how not to talk to people when something important needs to be said. Besides, if you can’t manage your emotions why should he/she manage theirs?

7. Try not to use a bedroom as a jail cell. 

Bedrooms should be used as safe places to go to and to spend time in and not someplace where you go to be isolated and punished for making some nasty choices or decisions. Remember we are trying to teach something from a mistake made. If junior has a TV or computer in his/her room you might want to remove it as part of the consequence or discipline.

8. One thing you might do different next time?

This is a great way to end the ordeal. It’s positive and it suggests that he/she is capable of changing the outcomes when they find themselves in a similar situation. It also suggests that you, as parents, still aren’t angry at them and that they still love them and have faith in their abilities to manage themselves successfully.

That’s how I see it anyways, All the best.

Comments are welcome at jim.lifechoice@gmail.com  OR  jimcloughley.com.

Please send this along to your family or friends.

Thanks for stopping by–Jim

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