Disciplining children is one of the toughest challenges of parenthood. When you are trying to get your independent toddler to cooperate or trying to rationalize with your preschooler, parenting can quickly become frustrating and discouraging. Having an approach to discipline by creating an overall discipline philosophy can be helpful in guiding your parenting and choosing a style of discipline that is a good fit for your family.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to discipline. Each misbehavior has its own root cause. It is important to have a philosophy that takes into account the context of each situation, as well as your child’s developmental age and stage.
Discipline is not something we want to do on auto pilot or rely on broken tools from our past. Here are some questions to consider as you begin to develop a discipline philosophy that comes from a place of mindful intention.
- Do I have a discipline philosophy? Is my discipline purposeful and am I consistent when I don’t like how my children are behaving?
- Is what I am doing working? Does my approach allow me to teach my children the lessons I want to teach? Am I addressing behaviors less frequently or am I disciplining about the same behaviors over and over?
- Do I feel good about what I am doing? Does my approach allow me keep my relationship emotionally connected with my children? Do I take time to reflect on discipline moments and how I handled myself? Do I feel pleased with how I handled myself or do I frequently wonder if there is a better way?
- Do my kids feel good about my discipline? Do my children understand my approach and feel my love? While they may not like being disciplined, children, like adults, have a need for dignity. Am I communicating in a respectful way that allows my children to still feel good about themselves? Is my discipline free of labels and judgement?
- Does my approach allow my children’s feelings to be validated? Children have their own reactions to circumstances and their own perceptions. Does my approach allow me to try and understand the situation from my child’s perspective? Am I telling my child how they should or shouldn’t feel or am I allowing them to own their feelings? Am I able to validate their real feelings?
- Do I feel good about the messages I am communicating to my children? Do they know that I still love them even when I don’t approve of their behavior choices? Am I communicating to them that we all make mistakes and part of learning from our mistakes is learning to make good decisions about doing the right thing?
- How much does my approach resemble that of my own parents? How did my parents discipline me? How did their discipline make me feel? Am I just repeating old patterns or am I rebelling against how I was disciplined?
- Does my approach ever lead to my children apologizing in a sincere manner? This may not happen on a regular basis but does my approach leave the door open for apology?
- Does my approach allow for me to take responsibility and apologize for my own actions? There are no perfect parents and there are no perfect children. How open am I with my children when I make a mistake? Am I able to model for them what it means to own up for one’s own mistakes?
- Do I jump in and say “No” too quickly? Is my natural reflex to say “no” to my child or am I able to step back and listen to what my child is asking of me? Are there too many times I say, “No” when I could have said “Yes”?
Successful parenting begins in your heart. Take a moment to consider your parenting. Are you content with the direction you are headed? Are changes needed? Parenting and especially discipline are moving and changing elements that ebb and flow with the needs of our children. As children develop and mature you should be looking at your practices and making changes that feel right and are a good fit for you and your family.