As a mom of four kids, I always have to think through the way I discipline and how I should re-direct negative behaviors. Figuring out the most effective discipline tactics is ongoing, and dealing with kids at different ages with different personalities keeps me on my toes.
As a therapist, I have clients ask about strategies and techniques for discipline, and I often hear the insecurity of parents wondering if they are doing it right. With all the different ideas on the topic, there is a lot to sort through. Next time you are questioning the effectiveness of your discipline style, ask yourself these questions.
1. Is the discipline technique somehow related to the behavior?
It is always important that the discipline matches up with the crime. This helps the child understand logical consequences and learn a lesson more clearly. For example, if a child makes a bad choice playing outside with friends, he won’t be able to play outside the next day. You can use our Consequence Calculator to come up with your own plan for effective discipline.
2. Does this teach my child what they need to do differently?
I have seen many parents reprimand their child for a bad choice, but not actually tell their child WHY what they did was not okay. It is important that you take the time to teach your child about the problem AND share with them what you expect from them moving forward. For example, if a child is jumping off of the playground, don’t just say “No”. Explain to him how that is a dangerous choice and he could be giving a negative example to younger kids at the park. Talk to him about the appropriate way to play safely on the playground.
3. Does the behavior change?
Many parents experience the feeling that nothing is working to change a behavior. If you find yourself here, this could mean that you need to check out some new strategies in order to get your desired results. Here are some creative consequences to get you started.
4. Does the discipline create a connection or disconnection between my child and me?
It is important that your child knows you are the parent, but also still feels and accepts your love afterward. The way you act and communicate that the behavior is not okay can make a big difference. If you are yelling, critical, or aggressive, your child may feel that the relationship is distant after the incident. Here are some ways to discipline with love.
5. Does the discipline fit my child?
Each child has unique needs and personalities, which means you need to look at the child to make sure it matches. Different ages and developmental abilities are important to consider.
6. Did my child learn how to “own” what happened and take responsibility?
It is important for your child to accept his part in the incident and not blame everyone else. You want your child to really understand that he had a choice and that he needs to make a different choice next time.
7. Did I separate who my child is from what my child did?
You want your child to know that just because they made a bad choice, they are not a bad kid for doing so. Focus on the behavior being bad– not the child. This helps the child maintain self-esteem and not feel shame.
8. Can I follow through easily and sustain this?
It’s important to make sure that whatever technique you choose for disciplining your child is something you can actually keep up with and follow through on. You can have many great ideas, but if it’s not a good match for you to do them well, then you may need to look at simpler options. Being consistent and following through are key ways to maintain good boundaries with your child.
Being consistent and following through are key ways to maintain good boundaries with your child.
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Tell us! Do you have any other questions that help you evaluate if your discipline is effective?
Teri Claassen is a Jesus follower, wife to Dan, mommy to one boy and one girl, a foster mom to kids in need, and a therapist at Renewed Horizon Counseling in Tampa, FL.