The D-word: Discipline

As parents, we strive to have good kids. However, we don’t just happen upon these so-called “good” kids. It is our job to teach them. We can’t expect to have obedient, well-behaved kids without good, solid discipline. And, let’s be honest: disciplining is hard work. What works for one child, may not work for another. What worked once on that child, may not work a second time. It feels like constant trial and error. Still, it’s important to keep our eyes on the prize: raising human beings who will add value and enrich our  world.

Why should we discipline our kids anyway?

According to Webster’s, the definition of discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules or to follow a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. The bottom line is this: parents discipline their kids to teach them obedience. We love our children so much, we choose to discipline them. We want what is best for them. We want them to grow up to be successful contributing members of our families and society. 

Today I’d like to share some tips with you. I’ve noticed that when I do these things my kids are more obedient and we have less discipline issues. When they start to slip, I realize I’ve slipped too.

1. Set clear, realistic expectations.

When we play a new game at our house, we always start by reading the rules. How else will we know how to play or avoid breaking the rules? How does someone win? In the same way, we should set expectations for our kids. Setting these expectations from the very beginning helps both you and your child learn what is acceptable and what is not. If your child knows that he should not throw his baseball inside the house, for example, it will be easier to correct him when he does it. Keep in mind that your expectations should be appropriate for the age of your child. Nine-year-old Jack knows not to throw the baseball inside the house, but one year old Luke may not understand.

2. Be consistent.

Keep in mind that your child has his eye on you at all times. He wants to check and double check that you really mean what you say. He will test you and push boundaries. So, if you told him yesterday that he wasn’t allowed to jump on the couch, don’t let it slip today. The last thing you want is to come across as weak or easily manipulated. Remember to be consistent with expectations and consequences every single time, even if you are exhausted from a long day. All that work you put in to set the rule will be erased and you will have to start over. Our kids are smart. They will catch on if you don’t follow through.

3. Follow through with consequences.

“You better stop doing that or you will lose your iPad privileges.”

“If you don’t clean up your room, you can’t go to your friend’s house this weekend.”

“No dessert if you don’t finish your dinner.”

You have to follow through with consequences—it’s that simple. Otherwise your kids will call your bluff. They want to see what you will do. As the parent, you have to be prepared to keep your word and do as you say. Don’t threaten your kid with something you know you won’t do. If you know you won’t follow through, chances are, they know it too. And just like with being consistent, all it takes is once for your child to catch on.

Kid: 1, Mom: 0. Don’t let it happen. Remember, YOU are the parent!

4. Use positive encouragement.

By all means, reward your child for obeying. Verbal praise is the most immediate way to do this. Some kids might respond better to sticker charts or prizes as rewards. Tell them you are proud of them. Show them that obeying has positive consequences. At our house, we’ve discovered that special time with Mommy or Daddy is a reward they all enjoy. Find what works for your child. You won’t always need these, but they are fun to do to build a great relationship with your kids. You’d be surprised to see how hard my son will work to read a book with just me. Bonus: I love it, too!

Discipline should be proactive whenever possible. Your goal is to avoid problematic issues altogether. Set clear expectations from the beginning, be consistent, and follow through with your consequences. Use rewards and consequences as you see fit. When an issue does arise, deal with it immediately before it gets out of hand. It will become increasingly difficult the longer you have to deal with it.

Take heart. Disciplining your child is hard work, but it will pay off. Having obedient, well-behaved children is worth it. When your kids’ behavior matches who you know them to be on the inside, you’ll think, Why didn’t I do this sooner?

Do any of you have any discipline experiences or ideas that work particularly well with your kids? Please share in the comments below. We are all in this together, dear mamas!

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