Discipline That Works

Many parents confuse discipline with punishment. While punishment is simply imposing something unpleasant on someone who has done something wrong, discipline involves instruction. When parents discipline a child, they are sending the signal that the child’s actions were wrong, but they also instruct the child in why their actions were wrong. Many different schools of thought about how to discipline children exist among parents and childcare experts today, but what they all have in common is the desire to teach children to act appropriately and responsibly.

Discipline Teaches Children Right from Wrong

The main goal of disciplining children is to teach them right from wrong. More specifically, when disciplining a child it should always be made clear:

  • What action in particular is causing the child to be disciplined.
  • Why the action was wrong or inappropriate.
  • What more appropriate options could be selected next time.
  • Why it is important to respect others and their property.
  • Why it is important to behave appropriately and responsibly.

Discipline Should Be Consistent

One of the biggest mistakes parents make when disciplining their children is that they become inconsistent. Instead, be sure to:

  • Discipline children to an extent that is in proportion to their actions.
  • Avoid “giving in” to crying and temper tantrums.
  • Remain calm while disciplining children.
  • Remind children that you are disappointed in their actions, not in them.
  • Discipline each time the action occurs.
  • Praise children when their actions are appropriate.
  • Model good behaviour at all times. Never physically strike, swat or smack.

Methods of Discipline

When children misbehave, it is important that adults know how to handle the situation. Knowing how you will react when a rule is broken is almost as important as establishing the rule itself. The next time your children misbehave, try one of these popular methods of discipline:

Time Out – A modern favourite, “time out” occurs when a child is acting inappropriately and needs to be separated from the situation. Being put in a “time out” chair, step or rug takes the child away from the actions and gives parents a chance to speak to him/her quietly and calmly.

Cause and Effect – Also known as “natural causes,” this method helps children understand the consequences of their actions. If they insist on dumping their paint in the back garden, they will have no more paint to play with.

Parents’ Rules – Sometimes called “logical consequences,” this method shows children that parents will become actively involved if they misbehave. While not taking a bath may not provoke immediate consequences of any kind for children, it will mean that their parents decree that they can not attend the birthday party tomorrow due to their dirty state.

Revoke Privileges – Sometimes in order to gain children’s attention it becomes necessary to change their lifestyle. Revoking a particular item, such as a toy or video, or a privilege, such as staying up to watch a favourite show, will often seem so severe to a child that they will understand how inappropriate their behaviour has been.

Know Your Child

Discipline is based on the premise that children are misbehaving, and therefore understand how to behave appropriately but choose not to. As a parent, you are in the best position to judge your children’s actions, so when disciplining children ensure that you:

  • Understand the circumstances of the actions.
  • Be aware of your child’s abilities. Ask yourself:
    • Did they know it was wrong?
    • Will they understand why it was wrong?
    • Will they realise that they are being disciplined and learn from it?
  • Are aware of their emotional state.
    • Are they particularly vulnerable?
    • Are they so worked up they will not be able to learn the lesson?
  • Show your children that you still love them.

At some time every parent will need to discipline their children. Treat these moments as opportunities to teach your child about appropriate behaviour and social skills, and do not be afraid to discipline your children consistently and as needed. It is only when children understand the world around them, and their place in it, that they will begin to understand why appropriate behaviour, respect and responsibility are needed from everyone.


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