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How Referee Moms Master Discipline

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The next time you watch a football, soccer, or lacrosse game, pay special attention to the referees. The really good ones keep their cool even when parents yell at them or kids complain about a call. Referees are impartial. Their emotions don’t affect their decisions because the rules are the rules—it’s not personal. The same goes for mom’s rules.

I’ve been trying to act more like a ref when I discipline my kids. “Hey,” I’ll say. “It’s not that I want to be mean or that I’m mad at you, but you broke a rule and I told you ahead of time what the consequences would be if you did.” Enforcing consequences like a referee makes discipline a whole lot easier. Here’s how.

Share the rulebook.

Before I enforce the rules with my kids, we discuss what the rules are, what I expect, and the consequences for choosing to break mom’s rules. Also, having clear rules before an infraction occurs frees me from having to come up with consequences in the heat of the moment.

You might want to think about putting your rule book into print. Make the copy available to the entire family. Then, when a rule gets broken, you simply refer to the book.

Stick to the rulebook.

As much as possible, don’t change the rules on a whim. If you think you must make a rule change, be very clear with your kids about why you’re making it. Of course, when a rule isn’t working, it’s OK to reevaluate it. You can do this on your own or form a “rules review” committee with your children to get their input.

Enforce the rules.

Last Saturday, my son wanted to meet friends for lunch. “Sure,” I said, “Just take care of your chores before you go.” Fast forward a couple of hours: “Mom, can you take me now? I’ll do my chores when I get back.” Hmm, I don’t think so.

This is when being a ref mom will make your life easier. It’s not personal. It’s just the rules. So even if your child makes promises, pleads, or pouts, enforce the rules.

No anger.

Remember, you are an impartial judge—a ref who calls ’em like you see ’em. You don’t have to yell or get angry at your kids. Why? Because the rules are the rules. Emotions do not come into play. If your children want to argue with you about a rule, allow them to give “their side of the story” and thank them for their input. As long as they’re being kind and respectful, it’s good to get insight into why they acted a certain way.

How do you enforce mom’s rules and consequences at your house?


What’s the toughest behavior rule to follow?

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