How to Discipline More so you can Punish Less
by Susie E. Caron (c) 1/16/16
Discipline, used incorrectly, is a pain.
Everyone hates it, because the word discipline has grown to mean something entirely different than its original. When we say ‘discipline’ we usually mean punishment and punishment is a pain because it hurts and usually doesn't give us the results we want.
Discipline actually means training.
If you are disciplined, then you are well trained. You may be a well-trained athlete, or trained to build intricate circuit boards, or maybe you’re a potty-trained child. Discipline means training, so to ‘discipline’ your child means to 'train' him or her to be well behaved. Over time, discipline works to strengthen both your child’s attitudes and actions. Punishment doesn’t.
Punishment doesn't mean training.
Punishment doesn’t work well when it is over used or relied upon solely as the means to correct or train your kids. However, if used sparingly, punishment has its place in raising children, because both good and poor behavior produce consequences. For punishment to work, it needs to make sense, mean something to the child, be delivered swiftly and over with quickly. In other words, the punishment must fit the child and the crime and not just relieve the embarrassment or anger the parent feels.
Compare the benefits.
There are tons of ways to ‘punish’ children. However, over reliance on punishment takes more of your time and energy than discipline. More punishment than discipline also produces anger and hurts your relationship with your child. Over reliance on punishment doesn't train children to be well behaved when you're not around.
Discipline takes less time and energy, and develops your child's self-esteem and strengthens the parent-child relationship. Discipline helps children want to behave well even when you're not looking.
If this comparison convinces you that you want to use more discipline, there are 3 main keys to consider and include.
Accept your child fully.
Your child, needs to be accepted wholly, throughout each and every developmental stage. This is a major key to ensure a healthy relationship connection with kids throughout their lives.
Accepting your infants, was probably easy. They came in such adorable packaging and just got cuter as toddlers and children. You delighted in every first attempt and in each success. Crawling, talking, walking, climbing, throwing a ball, riding a bike, getting a good grade in school were each special for you.
However, as they grew up, they became more challenging and difficult to ‘accept’ entirely. They started to look funny, smell funny, talk funny, and seemed to like strange things (What is a pok-e-mon anyway? You want your what pierced?). As a result you may love your kids, but may also harbor a wish they were somehow ‘different.’
Your kids crave your acceptance. We all crave being accepted, not just belonging. If you are struggling, in some way, to ‘accept your child he/she can feel that. Your child may even feel a bit rejected, judged, or even shunned. That won’t help her self-esteem or build your relationship. Instead, whenever you think about your child, choose to accept the authentic nature of your child. I call this the child inside. Don’t think about the funny looks, smells, or favorite things. Just hold thoughts of how much you adore this child, especially the authentic person you know he or she is - inside. (It will appear, eventually.)
Set Clear Limits.
Limit setting is the second key to discipline. You set limits to keep children safe. Most parents seem to know how to set limits for their infants, babies, toddlers and early elementary school aged kids. They keep them out of the street, take away matches, put medicines out of reach and keep a watchful eye on their kids when they shop. But what happens when kids begin to challenge every limit you set?
When kids don’t want to take out the trash, demand to go to the mall and argue with everything you say, you may begin to wonder if you are ‘doing it all wrong.’ However, just because your kids keep pushing and using their favorite line, “But so and so’s mother let him do it”, actually shows you’re doing just fine. So absolve yourself of any guilt for setting limits. It's their job to push and yours to know when and how long to hold the line. You can set appropriate limits for each child based on age and 'response-ability'. So don’t vacillate, waver and give in when they challenge you. Set the limits guilt free, based on the fact that you know your kids best.
Guide your child.
You guide your child in many ways: teaching, training, modeling, talking, practicing and so on. This is probably the most natural and easiest part of ‘discipline’. You already provide a lot of guidance. You do it naturally just being with your kids and talking to them about how things work. You taught them how to drink from a cup, ride a bike, get on the school bus, shop and pay for groceries. You talk with them about being kind to old people and not to talk to strangers. You teach them about friendship and love when you show up at their sports events and recitals. You model how to get angry at something, and feel your feelings, without hurting others. You practice honesty, gentleness, cry when you need to and celebrate victories. You sit by them when they are sad and take care of them when they are sick. You are the parent, and you are engaged in the most important job in the world. Just by being you and by being involved with your kids every day, you are guiding them.
So, keep up the good work of training your children through the three keys of discipline: accept your child, set appropriate limits (without guilt), and provide guidance.
I thank you and perhaps, after they’re grown, your children will thank you too. I believe the world will be a better place, because you disciplined your children.
Twee’ means you and me
Raising good kids through wise discipline.
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
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Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!