The Heart of Discipline

Discipline feels hard and mean . . .

Discipline feels hard and mean . . .

Discipline is often used when we mean punishment. “I’m going to discipline you!” means, “I’m going to make you suffer for your transgression, and if you feel really bad I believe you won’t do it again.” Discipline, however, means ‘to teach’. Whoa! If I discipline you I mean to teach you something. And at the heart of discipline is to teach our kids self-discipline. Below are 4 non-mean ways to create more discipline in your family.

Modeling: We all know the yelling has to stop, it’s just that we want our kids to go first. Once they stop upsetting their sibling, or stop leaving dishes in their bedrooms or stop procrastinating on their homework, then we can be calm and disciplined. Uh oh? We have to go first. Once we stop upsetting our kids, once we clean up the kitchen, once we stop procrastinating on our chores - then our family might be calm and disciplined - consider it.

Development: Sometimes we are disciplining the wrong child. We can waste a lot of time trying to ‘discipline’ our two year old out of saying no, our four year old out of having tantrums, or 7 year old from fibbing, or our teen from eye rolling. Remember, a lot of kids “mis-behavior” is normal and annoying developmentally APPROPRIATE behavior. Sometimes I wonder how I would react if my kids tried to discipline me out of needing reading glasses, or shamed me because I was wee bit absent-minded (both normal and annoying developmental issues for middle-aged people).

Practice, Practice, Practice: Discipline takes practice. In our impatience we actually make discipline take LONGER. When a child knows they can make mistakes and have another chance, when we KNOW our child can make mistakes and have another chance, we spend more time supporting then we do rescuing. Kids need creative ways to solve their problems and it takes practice, practice, practice.

Shame-less: If we want our kids to practice self-discipline it’s more efficient, loving and encouraging if we stop using shame. Being disappointed or mad at them on a consistent basis teaches our kids to be ashamed of themselves. They might put on a big blustery bravado show of not caring, but usually, inside, they can shrivel up and whither under the parental judgment and disapproval. Creativity, courage and cooperation do not grown in a climate of shame, judgment, condemnation and disappointment.