Discipline comes from the Latin word “discipulus” meaning “to teach; to guide.” Punishment means to “penalize” for doing something wrong. Sometimes, these get mixed up with each other, resulting in a less than ideal outcome for our children. Therefore, it’s vital us parents know the following eight things about disciplining our children.
1. Know Your Discipline Style
- The Dictator. This Dad is always strict and never nurtures. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do, but rarely what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “My way or the highway.”
- The King. This Dad is strict and nurtures when needed. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do, as well as what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Let me show you the way.”
- The Joker. This Dad is never strict and rarely nurtures. He jokes a lot and makes fun of his children. His children don’t know what he doesn’t want them to do or what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Let’s just have fun.”
- The Follower. This Dad is sometimes strict and sometimes nurtures. He lets Mom take the lead on discipline and backs her up when needed. His children know some of things he doesn’t want them to do and some of the things he does want them to do. This Dad says, “Do whatever Mom says.”
- The Dreamer. This Dad is never strict and never nurtures. He lets Mom take the lead on discipline and doesn’t get involved with it. His children don’t know what he wants them to do or what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Whatever. Just leave me alone.”
When considering which discipline style you most associate with, ask yourself, “Is this the best style for my children/my family/my involvement?” And consider something more middle of the road.
2. Know the Family Rules
Clear communication is vital for understanding right and wrong in your house. You will need to establish clear boundaries for your home. We have written about Creating Family Rules in the past. Check them out and consider adding rules in your home today.
3. Know Your Reward Options
Many Dads believe discipline means “to control” rather than “to teach or to guide.” As a result, they use fear when they punish. It’s vital you know your child and what he/she considers a reward when it comes to discipline.
Some examples of rewards include:
- Praise: Tell your child how much you like their correct behavior and that they’re a good person for doing it.
- Encouraging Touch: Give your child a hug, pat on the back, or high five. It's never too early to teach your child the fistbump.
- Freedoms: Give your child a new freedom she or he can do one time or all of the time, such as stay up or out later, read an extra story at bedtime, have a bowl of ice cream, or money for doing an extra chore.
- Gifts: Give your child a toy, stickers or some extra cash.
4. Know Your Punishment Options
When the time for punishment happens, it’s vital dads know they have options. Some examples include:
- Say You’re Disappointed: Tell your children you expect more of them, and you expect them to behave the right way.
- Pay it Back: Tell your child to make up for bad behavior, such as paying for breaking something, doing the behavior they were supposed to do in the first place, or saying they’re sorry to someone they hurt.
- Take a break: Tell your child to sit in a corner, on the couch, or go to their room for a short period of time. This works best with children under the age of 10.
- Grounding: Don’t let your child leave the house for some period of time. Grounding works best with teens.
- Take Away a Freedom: Remove a freedom for a period of time or forever.
Make sure the punishment fits the crime. Don’t take away a freedom, for example, when a child does something minor and telling them that you expect more of them the next time will do the trick.
5. Know Difference Between Discipline and Punishment
Many Dads define discipline as punishment. In other words, they don’t see punishment as a way to discipline in certain situations. They see punishment and discipline as the same thing. Discipline means to teach or guide. Punishment means to “penalize” for doing something wrong.
6. Know Difference Between the Action and the Actor
Always focus on the “Action” not the “Actor.” Talk about what your child did. It’s okay, for example, to say that your child did something “bad” as long as you don’t say your child is “bad” for doing it. Keep the focus on the action.
Here are ideas for age-specific discipline:
For Dads of Infants and Toddlers:
- Discipline as a way to protect: At this age, guidance and discipline are about protecting your little one from hurting themselves. Say “no” firmly, but not harshly, when your child does something dangerous and move him or her away from the object or area immediately.
- Consistency is important: Be consistent with enforcing the boundaries you set in your home – inconsistency will confuse your child and give him the “ok” to push the limits if he thinks he can get away with it.
For Dads of School-Aged Children:
- Discipline as a way to nurture: When your child does something inappropriate, talk with him or gently about why the behavior was wrong – explain how it hurt other people, or is rude.
- Take a break if you’re frustrated: Never discipline out of anger. Do your best to always discipline calmly.
- Make the discipline fit the child: Different children will respond to discipline differently. One of your children might learn better through being deprived of a privilege (such as watching TV or a favorite toy); another child might respond more to being sent to his or her room or having to do extra chores.
For Dads of Teenagers:
- Discipline as a way to guide: At this point, your teen is becoming an adult and wants to be treated as such. You still need to be your teen’s parent, not best friend, and that means setting rules to help your teen make good decisions and firmly enforcing consequences when those rules are violated.
- Let them make mistakes: While your teen still needs to honor your family’s rules, giving your teen the freedom to make their own choices can be a valuable learning experience. Always make sure your words and actions communicate to your teen that you will always love them even if they make mistakes.
7. Know the “Why” of Discipline
Always explain why your child is being disciplined. Discipline is meant to guide your child and to teach a lesson. It’s essential you explain to your child why they have to sit in their room or give up TV. It’s the lesson you teach them through the discipline that is most important.
8. Know How to End with Love
No matter what, never end with the discipline; always end with love. Hug your child and let him/her know you are disciplining out of love.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about disciplining your child?