What is the best way to Discipline a child?Nov 26, 2023
I have been reviewing the 5 Love Languages of Children. In the last couple of chapters there is some discussion about discipline and the parent’s role as a teacher of their child. In my work with parents this topic raises a lot of questions.
- How do I get my child to follow the rules?
- What is the best way to discipline a child?
- How to discipline a child that won't listen?
Today, I am going to share with you a seven step process that I used in those moments where one of our children said something or did something they shouldn’t have done. Before we get started I feel the need to set some context. Personally, I am not fond of the word “discipline”. In my mind it implies the use of punishment as a way to control behavior. This process is not intended to control your child’s behavior or make them act in a certain way. The goal is to empower your child to make a better choice the next time. Consequently, the focus of the teaching is on the principles, values and beliefs that will guide your child’s thought process in the future. I much prefer the words teach or empower.
Rather than asking…
What is the best way to discipline a child? We could ask. What is the best way to empower a child to make better choices?
One other item before we go into the seven steps. A strong connection with your child is critical to this process. Your effectiveness is directly related to the quality of the relationship you have with your child. Building connection is one of the three core fundamentals I teach and if you feel you could use some new ideas or strategies on this topic be sure to visit our blog, podcast or YouTube channel.
Let’s walk through these steps. Please keep in mind that you will have to adjust the language you use and your delivery method based on the age of your child. For example: when my children were four or five years old, I would have them sit on my lap during one of these talks.
Step One: If necessary, provide a safe place for your child to regain their composure. Remember, your child is not in a place where they can learn or discuss solutions when they are overwhelmed with emotion. (Note: If necessary, take time to regain your composure as well)
Step Two - Tell them that you love them and speak to a relevant strength. Here is what this could sound like.
“I love you more than you can imagine. You are a smart kid. I have seen you make great choices before and I believe you can be a leader with your friends”
Step Three - Establish that this is a teaching moment. Say something like this:
“As your mother/father, it is my job to teach you and guide you towards being the best person you can be.”
A statement like this will let your child know that you have their best interest in mind. Consequently their defenses will come down.
Step Four - Share the lesson. Focus on the love based principle or value that would have produced a better result. Remember the long term goal is to guide their thought process so that they can make a better choice in the future. Here is a short version of how this could sound…
“In our family we act with kindness and we speak with respect to each other. Even when your brother does something you don’t like. It is possible to share your feelings without yelling or being mean. In fact, when you do this your brother will be much more likely to honor your request to stop doing whatever it is that is bothering you.”
Step Five - Have them share how their actions would be different given this new perspective. Ask questions like:
- What could you do differently next time?
- If you start to feel yourself getting mad, what can you do to calm down?
- How could you share what you were feeling without yelling?
Step Six - Have them develop a plan for making amends. This step is intended to teach your child to take responsibility for their actions. This is where we lean on natural consequences to provide some remorse for a poor choice. Here are a few ways this could play out.
- Having to pay for a broken item.
- Writing a note to apologize to a friend or family member
- Losing a privilege or freedom because their action created a break in trust with you. In this case, be sure to develop a plan for them to regain your trust as part of their efforts to make amends.
Step Seven - Restate your love and belief in them. The goal here is to let them know that you love them unconditionally and that you know they can make a better choice next time. Say something like…
“It is important for you to know that I love you no matter what. That being said, I want you to know that I am really proud of you for taking responsibility for what happened. It can be hard to admit a mistake and even harder to make it right. Also, I believe with all of my heart that you are capable of making a better choice next time something like this comes up.``
Try this. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Your Family Enrichment Coach,