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Articles by Mark Merrill


Mark Merrill

Mark Merrill is the founder and president of Family First, a widely respected national non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the family. read bio

4 Foundational Principles of Discipline

My father, now a grandfather to seven, was reflecting recently on his own journey as a parent. He said, “By far, the hardest part of parenting for me was consistency. If it’s wrong today, it’s still wrong tomorrow, even if following through with the consequences for my child does not fit the schedule.” And it’s true—the bedrock of good parenting is consistency, and consistency is often ridiculously inconvenient—to the parent!

Good parenting is work, and doesn’t go away when we’re tired or over-scheduled. So when you’re at a parenting crossroads, you may be asking, “Is it really worth the inconvenience to me to: take away his cell phone, ban her from the computer, or keep her home from the sleepover?  Most of the time, the answer is yes. So stick with your parenting plan, even if it means you’re the one who’s inconvenienced.

Principle #1. Be Unified.

Do you and your spouse agree on discipline? Show your kids you’re unified. Agree with your spouse on how you will discipline your children—ahead of time.

Principle #2. Be Consistent.

You can read all the books in the world and have dozens of great ideas, but if you’re not consistent they won’t work.  I’ll admit it, being consistent is tough.  Sometimes it’s easier to just let the kids get away with something rather than stick to your plan.  But consistency pays off in the long run.  It helps our children know what to expect.

Principle #3. Be firm, not harsh.

Some parents think that the only way to get children to obey is to be harsh…with angry words or a raised voice.  Children will respond better to a firm, authoritative tone.  Here’s how to be firm, not harsh.  Look your child in the eye.  Say it once in a calm, firm voice, and then be silent…wait for their response. If they don’t respond, then immediately discipline them without saying another word.

Principle #4. Discipline privately.

Never discipline in public.  Nothing is more humiliating and degrading to a child than disciplining them in the store or other public place.  If your child misbehaves in public, let them know that they will be disciplined when they get home.  Then, be sure to follow through.


Related Resource: Why You Need to Stick To Your Kid's Consequences


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© 2012 Mark Merrill. All rights reserved. Originally published at

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