3 Golden Rules of Disciplining Your Kids

the golden rule

I’ll never forget the time my brother and I stole a pack of gum from the grocery store. We were 2 and 4 years old, and my mother disciplined us in front of the cashier and other customers. We had done something wrong, but we were extremely embarrassed. Looking back, I wish she would have waited to discipline us until we were at home rather than publicly shaming us.

Most of us know the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That foundation definitely applies to child discipline. Here are 3 golden rules of discipline.

1. Discipline Privately.

Discipline is something that should be handled in private. Think about how you would feel if someone corrected or reprimanded you in front of your friends or coworkers. So, when your child misbehaves, calmly acknowledge the misbehavior and go to a private place to administer the discipline. If you can’t find a private place, tell your child that consequences will follow when you get home.

Now, an exception to the above is correction with children 5-years-old or younger. Look at this example of a 4-year-old wanting his mother’s attention when she is talking to a friend.

Mom: So anyway, Beth, the doctor said it would probably take her about a week to recuperate and then… (Interrupted by her child)

Child: Mommy! I want to ask you something! Mommy! Where’s my dinosaur?

Mom: Excuse me, Beth. You know that you’re not supposed to interrupt people when they’re talking, don’t you?

Child: Yes, Mommy.

Mom: Ok, then wait quietly, and I’ll be right with you.

Even in this case, the mother treated her son respectfully. She remained calm and spoke to him kindly.

2. Discipline Respectfully.

“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first, we have to make them feel worse?” – Jane Nelson

Even when you are extremely upset with your children, you can still treat them respectfully. That means avoiding sarcasm, screaming, and name calling. Model respect to help them know how to handle tense situations in their own lives.

You can say, “Jack, I am very upset with you right now. What you did was very wrong. It was not a good choice, and I do not want you to do it again. I love you, and I want you to understand that I am pointing this out to you so that you can do better the next time.”

3. Discipline Fairly.

To fairly discipline, consequences need to be determined in advance. Once those are in place, explain the consequences to your child so they know what to expect. Then when disobedience occurs, calmly relay the consequences. If you feel like your child really had forgotten the consequences, you can remind them of the consequence and give them another chance.  But, if they misbehave again, don’t negotiate consequences.

Fair discipline also takes into account where the child is at that point: is he acting out because he’s tired or hungry? Does he not feel well? Is his misbehavior linked to a stage appropriate for his age? Take in the whole scenario before you jump straight to disciplinary action.

What else would you add to this list?