Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Well, Stacey was writing about this the other day and then today an episode of Gilmore girls addressed the same topic, so I'm going to write down as much as I can about discipline. I need to be clear--this does not come from disciplining my child, but rather from my experience as a classroom teacher. I've taught many ages either as a full-time teacher or as a substitute and I've worked with all types of students as well. I can't promise that these things will work for everyone, but I can say that they've worked for me and I learned from some of the best.
First and foremost I want to say that all children want discipline. This sounds ridiculous, right? I clearly remember getting into fights with my mother about her rules. Kids do want discipline, though. In my years as a teacher I worked with a lot of kids whose parents had little or no rules and these kids are literally thirsty for someone to care about them and what they're doing.

There are keys to discipline, though. Discipline should always be fair, consistent, and respectful.

In order for discipline to be fair, the expectations need to be stated up-front. The age of the child plays a part here. If you're talking teenagers, then contracts or written rules are fine. If you're talking about a young child then "mommy said don't do that" should suffice. With younger children, warnings are OK, but don't get into the habit while where you threaten, but never follow through. A great way to handle this is to say, "Peyton, I'm warning you to stop screaming. If you keep screaming then you're going to end up in time out. This is the only warning I'm going to give you." It's up to you how many warnings you want to give, but keep it consistent.

Which leads to consistency. Follow through and discipline consistently. Letting things slide today will lead to a major meltdown in the future.

The final component to discipline involves respect. You have to do everything in your power to eliminate emotion on your end. If your child colors on the walls or even breaks curfew, they're not doing it because they hate you--they're experimenting. If you respond with anger, then it changes the dynamic. Try to think of it as a business transaction--you colored on the walls, so you sit in time-out for a certain number of minutes. It's not about hatred or anger or disrespect. Children are testing boundaries and your job is show them where they are. Don't make things personal. If your child stays out all night and gets drunk or accidentally cuts down your prized Jade bush, that doesn't make them stupid, or lazy, or arrogant, so don't say that they are. Criticize the action and not your child.

Some final thoughts in no particular order:
  • Don't discuss something while you're administering discipline. It's a transaction--you need to complete it and keep going. If you spend time talking about it, examining what happened, etc. then you are awarding them with attention. These kinds of things can happen after, but not at the time of a problem.
  • Eye contact is huge. If your child is begging you for something then say no and look away--this effectively ends the conversation.
  • If you do lose your cool and yell and scream then make it a point not to hold a grudge. Move on. Your children need to know that they are loved above all.

I feel like a complete ass writing about discipline, but this stuff has worked for me time and time again, and maybe there's something in here for someone else. Please ignore me if you need to!

But. . . if I didn't do a good job at explaining then please leave me a question--I'll answer as best I can.