Discipling your child is not an easy task. There are a lot of books and philosophies on this subject, but which ones work short term, long term or do not work at all is the difficult question?
First, like most things in life, you need an image in your head of what you want the relationship between you and your child to be from all stages in their life. What you do early in their life can affect the relationship as they reach their teen age and adult years.
The last thing you want to do is rebuild a relationship. We all know going backwards is not an easy thing to do or often never works long term.
FEAR IS A GOOD MOTIVATOR: Fear is a good motivator, but not when it comes to discipling your child. Why? It tends to be short term and often affects the trust in a relationship. Many researchers have found that kids tend to hide things or go to other people than their parents for advice when they feel they judged instead of heard. Kids fear getting in trouble or severely punished for the action and often find poor resources to sort out their mistakes like their friends.
Young people should be able to approach their parents, admit they did something wrong and get help remedying the problem. However, when they fear their parents and what they might do; kids will hide or cover up the problem instead. The mind will do a lot to avoid pain.
PRAISE CORRECT PRAISE: This can be a very effective method and still get the results you desire. It might go something like this: “I am proud of you for coming to me and I am glad you realized your mistake. There will have to be a punishment, but it seems you have learned from your mistake.” Let the punishment fit the crime. Sometimes you may even wish to skip the punishment the first time since your child was honest and came to you. Parents should ask themselves, “What is more important, that they need to be corrected/punished or that they came to you seeking help and were honest?”
DON’T GIVE OUT PUNISHMENTS WHEN YOU ARE EMOTIONAL: Most likely we are all guilty of this one. I know I am again and again. Sometimes they just flow out of your mouth as a quick threat to fix a situation, however they rarely work. What is recommended? First, work on a remedy for the problem then sit down with your child and discuss more details later when everyone is calm. You should rarely talk with more than one child at a time. You do not want to get into a he said/she said situation. Second, kids’ personalities are different and each one should be handled in a unique fashion.
DON’T BELITTLE, REINFORCE THE GOOD: Just remember, it has been shown in many studies, punishments do not always work. If you belittle or embarrass your child with your punishment, you can often build resentment or hurt their confidence to try new things. If you look back in history, belittling prisoners of war was a tactic used to hurt a soldier’s self-esteem and get them to release secrets. Sounds great at first! LOL. But often has long term negative effects.
When you do confront your child use questions like “How did you think that was a good idea” or “What would have been a better choice?” Using questions that start with “Why” tend to be judgmental and just make your kids feel worse. Remember most of us resort to negative feelings and are extremely hard on ourselves when we know we screwed up. Putting “salt in the wound” doesn’t do anyone any good.
YOU DO NOT ALWAYS HAVE TO GIVE A PUNISHMENT: We all make mistakes. It is part of life and that is one of the ways we learn. Sometimes that is all it takes. A life lesson and then you move on. Giving your child a hug, telling them you’re glad they learned from their mistake and moving on is sometimes the easy but effective way to handle the situation.
Parents, just remember, you want your child to understand they made a bad choice, that there are consequences and then be able to move on. Continuing to make your child feel bad over and over again is counterproductive for everyone.
If you are interested in contacting Brad Fantle for speaking engagements you may reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is an 7th Degree Black Belt, has 25 years experience working with children and teaching self-defense, and a BA in Sports & fitness from the University of Alabama.