Connecting with your Children through the Discipline Process

Connecting with your Children through the Discipline Process

As adults, we are teaching our children how to follow rules, get along in society, and determine right from wrong.  To do so we have to provide discipline, guidance and help our children to correct their mistakes and learn from them.  This can be a difficult process, making us as adults feel guilty, nervous, and worried about disciplining the right way.  To go along with your own thoughts and feelings, here are a few more tips and ideas.  What consequences you use with your children should be thought through carefully to determine are you teaching, correcting, guiding, or punishing? Asking yourself, questions about what you want to accomplish with your child when they misbehave versus reacting quickly within the moment will help you to become a more effective parent.

Discipline should come from an attitude of loving and caring for your child, not from a stance of anger.  Discipline should never involve personal attacks.  Try hard not to compare them to their siblings, or to motivate with threats.  Before correcting your child try to take a deep breath, walk away, ask your child to give you a moment.  Use this time to cool down and regroup, and then prepare what you are going to say and how you want to say it. 

Your first step in correcting the child can be to remove them from the situation.  For example if they are fighting with their sibling, you could split them up or if they are interrupting an important conversation ask them to wait a moment away from your conversation.  This is not a time out, this is an opportunity for them and you to calm down and prepare for your next step.  When you think that the child is ready and calm, then you can talk to them.

Next, help them to reflect on their behavior and what behaviors they can choose next time.  This gives them a chance to understand their behavior, its consequences, and to think through different actions for the future.  Ask them several questions and be open to their responses.  Be careful not to ask “why” questions, most adults and children perceive “why” questions as accusatory and not a question with genuine interest motivating the question.  Some question ideas include; “what did you do wrong?”, “how can you act differently next time?”  “What would be a better solution to your problem?”  Finally, if you are going to give them a consequence now is the time to let them know gently that there will be a consequence for their behaviors and help them to process and deal with their consequence.

Lastly reconnect with your child, making sure that the relationship that you have worked so hard for has not been damaged.  Express to your child that you love them very much, but that their behavior was a poor choice.  Remember that children and teens watch the adults in their lives and by being; consistent that it was their behavior and choices that need to be corrected and that they are loved and valued your child will come to learn how much you care and treasure them.  Make sure to talk with your child about making good decisions at a variety of random times and situations, help them through questioning and allowing them to make mistakes occasionally to learn from experience and to develop their independence. If a specific discipline problem continues, or escalates, it maybe masking a different problem altogether, seek out the advice of a knowledgeable therapist or pediatrician.


— Jeffrey S Gallup MA LPC

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