The Frustrations and Rewards of Discipline

The Frustrations and Rewards of Discipline

Disciplining children can be extremely frustrating even with good kids but the payoff for well-disciplined behavior is lifelong for parent and child and can be lifesaving as well. Training your child by setting boundaries and establishing standards of behavior early on may not eliminate all unhealthy behavior in the future, but it will go far in mitigating much unwanted conduct.

Many parents confuse punishment and discipline. Not all punishment is discipline and not all discipline is punishment. Discipline has everything to do with training; setting boundaries, developing rules and consequences – these are all a part of discipline. Punishment on the other hand has more to do with penalties for breaking the rules and sometimes punishment can be severe and in fact do the opposite of what it is meant to do.

Children may learn to avoid punishment by being sneaky or deflecting blame, confusing the issue, etc. Especially as they get older, children may learn to deal with punishment in ways that parents may not even be aware of. If mishandled, young children may learn to see punishment as a show of love or/and a way to get attention. To a child, negative attention is better than no attention at all. This is not a direction in which you want to take your child.

Discipline on the other hand is about training up your child in a good and responsible manner. Beginning at an early age, rules are established and enforced and the consequences are clear and always applied. Whatever method you use to discipline your child, the key is going to be consistent. This is one of the most difficult aspects of discipline. As a parent, you must also be disciplined in setting out designated consequences of misbehavior each time it happens. To do otherwise is to confuse the child.

Parents need to present a united front. Grandparents, favorite aunts and uncles also need to be enlisted in enforcing your rules.  A visit to Grandma’s house does not mean little Sara gets to eat ice cream for dinner, stay up late and swear like a sailor.

Children learn early on to play one parent against the other, especially if one always caves in. The same happens with grandparents, aunts and uncles. As difficult as it may be to believe, children need and desire boundaries. Knowing the boundaries creates security for the child. Will they test those boundaries? On a regular basis! They want to make sure that the boundaries are solid. It is your job to make sure they are.

Be judicious in creating consequences. If going to the circus is contingent on whether or not Billy cleans his room, then make sure you can stand by that. What if he doesn’t clean it? Will the entire family stay home?  Will you hire a sitter – one who isn’t any fun? Does Billy’s consequence effect everyone or just Billy? Make sure the consequence fits the situation. Is it reasonable? Does it make sense? Will/can you enforce it?

Disciplining your children can be full of frustrations and uncertainties, however, lack of discipline will almost inevitably lead to serious problems ahead. Good discipline, on the other hand, will also carry over into other areas of your child’s life because your child will understand what it means to play by the rules, use self-control, exercise delayed gratification and a plethora of other important life skills. A well-disciplined child will most likely grow up to be a well-disciplined adult. And that’s a very good thing.

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