This is the fourth article in the series on Discipline.
There are many methods we can use to enforce rules and encourage good behavior. Before we go into those, there are 5 Principles of Discipline that should be applied to any system you choose to use. Whether we are dealing with young children or teens, discipline is most effective when we keep these in mind:
1. Routine. In a class with second-graders today, I was constantly bombarded by a few children who insisted on telling me the way the class should be run. They want to make sure that as a substitute in their class, I maintain the same rules and routine that they are used to.
Children and teens work better if they are kept to a routine. If you set the rule that homework is to be done immediately after school everyday, then that schedule should be maintained as much as possible. Once in a while, adjustments have to be made for doctor’s appointments, or for an event at school. But the routine should not be interrupted for everyday activities such as watching TV. By maintaining a routine, your child knows what is expected of him.
2. Consistency. When I made a chore chart, the system was contained a reward at the end of the week if all the chores were done each day of the week. When two of my children completed the chart while one child did not, I feel bad that one has to miss out on the reward. Rather than giving in and rewarding everyone, I have to keep the system consistent. Otherwise the incentive loses its effect.
3. Keep it positive. People are better motivated by incentives than threats. As much as possible, keep our parenting positives with encouragement and rewards instead of coming off like drill sergeants.
4. Do not lose your cool. The other day I was substituting at school doing playground duty and saw a child misbehave. My first instinct was to stomp over there and yell at him, “STOP that! What’s wrong with you! Don’t you know you can’t grab the ball from someone else?” I caught myself and approached the situation calmly yet firmly telling him that his behavior is inappropriate and he needed to give the ball back. I remembered to act professionally.
When you are home with your children all day, everyday, it is easy to lose it. We don’t think we have to be “professional” with our own family. But remember, we are the adult, the loving parent. If we act out of control, is it a wonder that our children follow our example and get out of control too? Act in a way that is appropriate for your role.
5. Allow some flexibility. While we stress routine and consistency, there should always be room to change things up if your system is not working. Keep your eyes open for your children’s reactions. I read some great ideas from other parents, but when I try to implement those ideas in my family, they do not always work. If your chore chart is not working, talk it over with your children and make changes to it to fit their style. Each family dynamic and each child is different. Our discipline systems have to make the appropriate adjustments as well.
Read other articles in the series on Discipline: