Do’s and Don’ts of Discipline

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As parents and teachers, sometimes both, it is our responsibility to guide children and cultivate development and instill in our children a growth mindset and self-understanding and self-discipline. A previous blogged recalled the presentation given by Dr. Saul Fisher and Mr. Scott Daum regarding Discipline in the Context of Love. From there, we learned that a large part of discipline comes from understanding. First, we must understand ourselves and how we are and our biases. Secondly, we must understand the child and their uniqueness, temperament, and affections. After outlining the basis of understanding, Dr. Fisher provided 10 do’s and don’ts of discipline.

  1. Don’t Take it personally

The child has the right to misbehave; in fact, he has no choice. Testing limits is normal.  It is “creative exploration of their environment.”  This is how children learn.  This is where they find their boundaries and testing their impact on others.  Be sufficiently objective.  We’re often afraid the child’s behavior is a reflection of our skill but if we bend over backwards, they continue the problematic behavior.  We also need to avoid being personally reactive.

  1. Don’t react emotionally

Feelings are very important. They are a barometer that provides information about the child so you can decide how to act rather than react. We need to listen carefully to our children. By listening and talking to them about emotions, we help them develop a language for their feelings. The emotional side is not always good: We can experience anger, hate, envy, lust

Our intellectual side can elevate above the emotional side and see it for what it is.  We can see the light. It allows us to see a better love and act differently, more wisely.  This goes back to the importance of Self-reflection.

  1. Don’t yell, scream, or use sarcasm

Don’t be angry; be effective. We all “blow it” from time to time. When you do, it lets the child win and you know that the child is in charge. Children need to trust that adults are in charge and reacting in anger erodes that trust since the child can now see that they are able to control adults through their behaviour. We are also modeling problematic use of emotion.  It creates confusion instead of a clear message of what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Anger is corrosive to children’s self-esteem. When children repeatedly experience adult anger, they come to feel that they are not good enough.

  1. Don’t repeat yourself, explain, or lecture

Explanations and lectures five attention to misbehaviour. Children will misbehave to get you to repeat, explain and lecture. Repeated explanations also shows a lack of faith in the child’s ability to understand and instill doubt in them as to why their parent or teacher thinks he or she doesn’t understand. Yet again, it undermines the child’s respect for the adult.

  1. Don’t overuse praise

Be careful of making a child praise-dependent. Instead, provide opportunities for the child to become an important participant in the ongoing functioning of the home and acknowledge the value of his/her help. Don’t overuse praise.  Recognize and acknowledge what’s positive but avoid generic “good job,” “that was terrific.”  Using superlatives for behavior that meets expectations makes kids question whether or not they can trust your feedback

  1. Don’t be punitive

Give choices. Use consequences rather than punishments. Discipline is about teaching children to control their behaviour. The intention is not to hurt. Using consequences teaches children about reality and how their actions affect themselves and others. In this, there are three types of consequences: natural, logical, and unrelated. Natural consequences allow the children to experience the consequences without adult intervention. Logical consequences are directly related to the problematic behaviour. Unrelated consequences are chosen by the adult.

  1. Don’t be harsh

A rule is not a rule without a consequence. The power of the consequence lies in its predictability and in the child’s ability to choose. It doesn’t have to hurt, it just has to happen. However, how does a child feel when we follow through with a consequence?  “My teacher doesn’t like me.”  “You hate me.”  Consequences can feel punitive and harsh regardless of our motivation.  And we have to let them feel that hurt

  1. Don’t give a second chance

Say it, mean it, do it. Second chances undermine the child’s trust in the predictability of the environment and the adult’s world. They learn that there is a pay-off in being manipulative and children are gamblers and will test the limits. Holding the child accountable empowers the child. It is an act of faith in the competency of the child. Giving second chances undermines the order necessary for a child to flourish.

  1. Don’t be a martyr

We all become over-involved and over-worked, and we all over-do. Doing too much leads to resentment. Respect yourself so that the child can respect you.

  1. Don’t be unilateral in your decisions

Use teamwork. Between Mom and Dad, teachers and administration, home and school. Parents need to work together with each other to form a plan to manage their child’s problematic behaviour. In a school setting, the teacher needs to feel the support of the administration in supporting the structure of rules and consequences in the classroom. Good discipline takes planning. Those involved in a child’s life need to confer and plan together.

Both Dr. Fisher and Mr. Daum explained why these rules are necessary. You can read about discipline in the context of love here.

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