Spare the Rod?: 5 Things to Avoid When Disciplining Your Kids

December 16, 2014  |  

There are few things that frustrate me more than when my kids misbehave. I love my kids, but when they are out of line, I have to discipline them. As parents, we all discipline our children differently. There are some of us who don’t have the patience for time-outs and others who don’t have the heart to spank our kids. Wherever we fall on the discipline spectrum, we each have the right to determine what we feel is in the best interest of our child. I believe there are some key things we can do to ensure our kids not only face the consequences for their actions, but also learn valuable lessons from their mistakes. In order for discipline to really be effective, I think it is important to put some forethought into how we will deal with misconduct and not make it up as we go along. I have found that committing to a tough but fair discipline plan has not only made my children better people, it has also made me a better parent in the process.
Here are five other things I’ve found it helpful to avoid when trying to effectively discipline a child.

Avoid Lecturing :

Don’t lecture. Try to keep your spiel to three sentences or less. Anything after that is considered rambling and kids are more likely to tune you out. We have a lot we want to teach them, but going on and on about it doesn’t make it stick any better. Long-winded lectures can often lead to the child trying to negotiate their way out of trouble. Keep it precise and to the point. It’s more impactful.

Avoid Spanking When Angry:

The spanking debate is one that has been around forever. Some parents choose to spank their kids, while others don’t. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, try to avoid spanking your children when you’re angry. There is always the risk of causing irreparable harm to the child in moments of heightened emotion. Consider letting the other parent do the spanking or issue an alternate punishment. In my experience, the fire coming from your nose is usually enough to let them know you mean business.

Avoid Ambiguity:

The rule of thumb is to say what you mean and mean what you say. Sometimes, as parents, we tend to  verbally chastise our kids out of frustration, but then flake out when it is time to enforce the punishment. For example, let’s say your child doesn’t do their chores all week and you threaten to cancel their weekend plans. The weekend comes, they beg to go and you give in. If this is the case, it is better to just let the infraction slide and not say anything at all. As a workaround, try to make the punishment something effective immediately like less television or gaming time for the night. Delayed punishments can be easy to renege on and harder to reinforce.

Avoid Over-punishing:

When I was a kid, there were few things worse than a getting a triple punishment for what seemed like relatively minor infraction. I believe the time should match the crime. If your child misses curfew by a few minutes, there is no need to put them on punishment for a month, take away their iPad and put them on bathroom duty for a year. One the flip-side, if  your child is engaging in behavior that could compromise their safety or the safety of others, then more severe punishment may be warranted to try and correct the behavior. Try to implement punishment plans that are commensurate with the infraction and then enforce it.

Avoid Too Many Warnings:

Out of a sense of fairness, it may seem only right to give your child a few warnings before punishing them. In our house, we do things a bit differently. If our kids do something wrong, we will let them know the clear path to rectifying the situation – but they get only one warning before the repercussions kick in.  If you keep warning a child, but nothing ever happens, they begin to believe you’re all talk and no action.  A lot of parents operate under the three strikes and you’re out rule. I think that works well in baseball, but in the game of life, sometimes we don’t get numerous chances to get it right. This is a lesson better learned at home than out in the streets.


What do you try to avoid when disciplining your child?

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