What Kids Need: Parental Discipline

Okay, you have established some rules, and set some consequences, negotiated this upfront in advance of a big problem, and solicited your child’s feedback.  Now what?  Now, you must enforce those consequences as agreed upon.  Enforcing discipline isn’t pleasant or even natural, but it is necessary.  Kids need to know what you mean business and that you will follow through with what you say.  As a high school administrator for many years, I have had parent-student conferences where the parent has said something they are going to do as a result of their child’s behavior and have had the child say, “You won’t do it.”  What?!?  Are you kidding.  That cannot be, well, yes it can.  Follow-through is vital to raising successful kids.

At the high school where I worked for many years, the rules were so clear to kids that when something would happen, like a fight in the hallway, the kids would come into my office and my first question was, “What do we do around here with kids that fight?”  They would always cite the policy and the punishment before I had even to say anything.  Then I would say, Okay, now, let’s find out what happened first before we predetermine the next steps, but I am glad that you know our policy and that it is consistently enforced.  The discussion would ensue from there.  Giving punishment to them was much more comfortable because they knew already what was going to happen.  I have had kids even say, “It was worth it.”  Well, that depends I would say, but at least for them at that moment, it seemed worth it, know what would happen next.

Be sure that when you are disciplining your child that the discussion and process of applying the discipline is not a result of your frustrations with life or with them.  So often, our anger about something else, or even allowing something to grow into a significant irritation causes an argument which then results in discipline.  Now to the child, the discipline is a result of the argument, not from the incident itself.  Be sure to separate the two and discuss things that can grow into something big in advance while tempers are cool.

Applying consistent discipline to kids is so important.  I have a friend whose daughter is two years old.  She said that she wanted a drink of water, so she went to the kitchen by her self and got a soda pop out of the refrigerator and drank it, right before bedtime.  He was angry and confronted her appropriately, but she just shrugged it off and told him that she wanted a soda pop.  He did nothing.  Now that may or may not be cute at the age of two, but what about an incident of higher escalation when she is 13 or 14?  It definitely won’t be cute, and she will know from past experiences that she has the upper hand.  It will backfire with the parent making it much more challenging to get things back on track.  Discipline, when done appropriately, is very useful in upholding standards of behavior for kids.  Enforcing discipline serves them well in terms of self-discipline, self-esteem, and self-control.  These three areas are of crucial importance when they are personally confronted with those “moments of decision” in their own lives when you are not around.  If we don’t teach them to apply self-control to themselves now, it will not get more comfortable and in the long run, we are doing them a tremendous disservice.

I challenge you reading this to begin by establishing some rules of conduct, set some consequences, negotiate upfront the consequences, and then enforce them.  Start simple and work from there, you will be so glad that you did this when they are teenagers.

Yours for Better Parenting,

Rich