Guidelines for Child Discipline

  1. Develop a plan and make rules in advance of misbehavior. Don’t just react without a plan.  Effective discipline comes from decisions made away from the battle with a difficult child.
  1. Make rules, expectations, and consequences very clear to the child before the need to discipline. Have them repeat them to you to be sure they understand before they break the rules. Don’t assume that children know what you want them to do.
  1. Both parents should agree on the rules (do this in private) and support each other in front of the children. Try not to argue, contradict, or take sides with the child in discipline situations.
  1. Explain rules to children firmly, calmly, and without yelling or threatening and explain them before they ever have to be enforced.
  1. Take action when rules are violated. Use little emotion and few words,  just carry through with the explained consequence.
  1. Remember that most kids if given the chance would rather please their parents rather than battle with them. Give them that chance.
  1. Give positive reinforcement. Let them know when they are caught behaving and notice when they are trying harder to comply.  Reward them!
  1. Set some privacy rules and boundaries between parents and children. Parents need some areas where you can interact without the children present such as bedroom or bathroom.
  1. Remember that children are not little adults and they are emotionally immature and need discipline and structure. This gives them security and helps them develop self-discipline.
  1.  Children do best when they know clearly what is expected of them and expectations do not change constantly. Structure and consistency give security and reduce anxiety in children.
  1. Structure is not the same as rigidity. Structure and flexibility go hand in hand like firmness and kindness.
  1. Strong-willed children need choices.  Insist that your child be dressed on time and properly but let him/her choose between two or more acceptable outfits.
  1. Most difficult children thrive on routines.  A routine is a predictable sequence of prescribed events in the same order every day.  Parenting of difficult children is much easier when routines are established. Develop a morning and an evening routine for your children.  Though the time for each routine may vary, the sequence must remain the same.
  1. Change from a critical/punishing mode of parenting to a positive reward system. Apply rewards in a planned fashion, and not as an on the spotresponse.  The reward is given at the completion of a specific behavior not before and not because of a good attitude. The reward should be specific also.
  1. As a general rule difficult children do better with rewards than punishment. Repeated negative responses to bad behavior reinforce the bad behavior instead of stopping it.  Try using rewards for good behavior instead.
  2. Use thinking not feeling when you discipline. Your responses should be thought out not emotional or instinctive. Difficult children have a temperament that reacts negatively to a change in routine. Ask yourself what change has triggered this negative behavior. Use wise management of changes rather than punishment.
  1.  Punishment should be reasonable and done with the right attitude.  The severity of the punishment is not as important as your attitude in punishment. Be serious, consistent, and in control.  Remember five minutes in the corner can be as effective as 60 minutes.
  1. Don’t undermine your authority by sweet talking or asking permission for your punishment. “Go to you room honey, OK?” You are the parent! Stay in control.
  1. Use a reward system such a chart of specific behaviors that you can reward with stars or checks and then give a prize when so many stars or checks are earned. The prize might be reaching into a treasure chest of penny toys or some favorite activity or gift they have helped to pick out for good behavior. Beware of rewarding too much with food as this can lead to seeking food as comfort or rewarding self by eating later in life.
  1. Physical punishment done in a controlled way is Biblical and it works. It should be used sometimes if necessary as one of a repertoire of disciplines. Physical punishment should cease after the age of 10 or 12.  A small switch or paddle applied to the seat of a little child is effective. Never hit a child in the head, face or back or shake them violently.  Do not jerk harshly on their limbs. Any of these can cause sever damage both physically and emotionally.
  1. If discipline is effectively given when children are young, the need for discipline decreases as they get older.  A child left undisciplined when young will become unmanageable later.
  1. The purpose of discipline is instruction and training not punishment. You are shaping their behavior and helping them develop self-discipline. You are preparing them to be successful in life and forego the immediate gratification of emotional desires for goals that are better and in their best interests in the long term. (eating right, practicing a musical instrument, or studying and doing homework)
  1. The most effective parents are ones that have a balance of love and discipline. Lots of love and discipline produce healthy children. Too much discipline and not enough love produce rebellious children. Too much love and permissiveness and not enough discipline produces disrespectful children who lack self-discipline.
  1. Children model the behavior of parents. They are watching us and will treat us and each other the way that they see parents behaving towards each other.  Model respect, kindness, and support for your spouse in front of your children. Learn to handle conflict and anger in Biblical ways that lead to peace and resolution of issues. ( Eph 4-6; Rom 12; Col 3)
  1. Do not punish children for their nature or what you see as their motivation (he is doing that just to frustrate me) rather than focusing on the behavior.
  1. Remember that your ineffective response to a difficult child establishes a behavior pattern that reinforces the bad behavior.  Do not try to reason with difficult children or get in an emotional battle. They are not little adults.  Taking calm, effective, consistent, and controlled ACTION is what will work.