Discipline doesn’t have to be a dirty word in your home. In fact, when you think about it, there are several positive four-letter words associated with discipline.
1. NEED Children don’t know they need discipline, and they may not act like they enjoy your boundaries especially when you are in the heat of a battle, but the right kind of discipline involving structure, routines and expectations gives a child a clear path to follow.
How can a child begin to do what is expected in his home if the guidelines of his family life are fuzzy? How can a child know his responsibilities around the home unless these jobs and roles have been thought through and explained to him? How can a child know not to make bad choices if he doesn’t know the clear implications of the choices. Children NEED discipline to understand their world and their place within it.
2. SAFE When children know what their days will bring, they feel safe. They know they can count on Mom or Dad to follow through on what they say (good or bad), and that makes them feel secure. Sure, the negative consequences of making a bad choice can make a child feel like they are suffering, but this kind of suffering helps to instill a boundary on what they can and cannot do. They feel safe in knowing that every time they make a specific choice an identified consequence will follow. There will be no room for question, no room for worry, and only a clear understanding of expectations and boundaries. Their little world will feel predictable and SAFE.
3. LOVE Yes, you can love your child and at the same time and put boundaries on their behavior. When you shape your parenting with structure, you are giving your child what they need to be safe. Giving them these two gifts will make them feel loved. It is not a love that is conditional on behavior but one that is rooted in understanding of what is best for them. This kind of love does not change. It stays the same and so does the behavior expectation. They can trust it and feeling safe in these expectations makes them feel loved. You can help ensure that they know they are loved no matter what by letting them know that you love them even when you don’t love their choices.
So, now that we see that discipline is an essential part of any good parenting practice, think about where you can add structure and secure boundaries to your child’s life?
Do you have a plan for how your children should act at the dinner table? Does your child know the list of rules for behavior when friends come to visit? Have you clearly stated the general guidelines for being polite, responsible and caring individuals? When you go to a new place do you set up “on the spot” boundaries for behavior?
What routine in your day needs a little more discipline or structure?
Go through each part of your day (from breakfast to bedtime), and think through your expectations on how these routines will run.
Make a list of expected behaviors and go through them with your child over and over again until they become a part of their thought process for this routine.
Make your expectations crystal clear by actively role playing the postive behavior you expect, verbally expressing what you would like to see, and then visually drawing out the plan for behavior using charts and pictures.
Soon you will see them make choices based on these plans you have set forth, and if you follow through with clear consequences then your child will stear clear of negative choices and head toward the positive ones.
In the end, you will have created “mini -disciples” that follow your family’s plan for behavior. As disciples of your family’s plan, they will gain everything they need to feel safe and loved.