There isn’t a topic that can divide parents and damage relationships quite like disciplining their children. When it comes to disciplining children parents often get stuck or feel divided on trying to answer questions like, “What should we discipline our children for?” or “How should we discipline our children?”
Before you try to answer those questions, we encourage you to answer this question first;
What is discipline?
In our thoughts, the word “discipline” is from the Latin word disciplina meaning “instruction and training”. It's derived from the root word discere — “to learn.” So, when disciplining our children we need to be considering what we want to teach them. If you are seeing your child behave in a way that you would prefer they do not, think about this;
What skill is lacking and how do I teach my child this skill?
For example, 11 year old Jill is getting really frustrated at the game she is playing. She is starting to raise her voice and yell at the game. This behaviour isn’t what you would like Jill to be displaying and you have a choice to make here as her parent. See if you can understand what is happening for Jill first and ask yourself, what skill is lacking and how do I teach it?
Perhaps Jill is struggling with patience because she isn’t winning the game. How can you help her with that? If you snap at her, ban her from the game and send her to her room, you haven’t helped her to learn patience. You have shown the same behaviour as Jill and reinforced to her that this is how people deal with frustrations.
By slowing it down a bit and parenting on purpose, you can help Jill to develop patience by modelling it to her in this moment by being patient yourself. You may like to come alongside Jill and validate how she is feeling by saying “It makes sense that you are frustrated. This game is tricky sometimes!” Perhaps Jill might be willing to let you help her with the game or make a suggestion on how she can find her patience. Maybe by taking a little break to kick a ball around outside with you or go for a bike ride together, her patience might have found its way back.
If you choose to respond in this way, you have effectively disciplined your child whilst maintaining a healthy and respectful relationship with them. You have just modelled for Jill patience and you have taught her so much more! You have taught her feelings are okay, to accept help when things are hard and to take breaks when feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. You have also reminded her that you are a safe adult who loves and cares about her and will always be there for her.
Parenting is a tough gig, but it feels good to parent in a way that you are proud of. Give the ‘what skill is lacking and how do I teach it’ strategy a go, and how it works for you and your family.