I am the youngest of seven children. Watching my siblings raise my 18 (and counting) nieces and nephews, I've watched their vastly different parenting styles. They've utilized similar and diverse disciplining techniques and some work better than others. As a third-party observer, I realized discipline is not a punishment but a priceless teaching moment.
Teaching those precious little ones requires so much patience but pays off as children gain control of their own lives and implement what they've learned. But that outcome only happens if you discipline them the right way.
Here are some ideas to give your child the tools they need to learn good behaviors and make positive choices:
1. Make it a choice
Every choice has a consequence - good and bad. Because they made a bad choice does not mean they are a "naughty" or "bad" child. If you call them a "naughty" child, they will begin to believe it and live up to that expectation. Their choice does not define who they are. Help them learn to make good choices by teaching them about how rewarding positive consequences are, instead of the other way around.
2. Choose a related consequence
Spanking and time-outs don't always relate to your child's disobedient action. If a child spills a whole gallon of milk after you said to wait for help, have them clean it up. They will remember the correlation between the choice and the following consequence. It makes them think twice before repeating the offense.
My sister gave me an excellent example of this. Her son yelled at her for not having clean pants ready for him. My brother-in-law bought him his own laundry basket, and he now does his own laundry. If he doesn't have clean pants now, it's his fault. Because he yelled at his mother, his consequence was taking responsibility for his actions and learning how to do his own laundry.
3. Be consistent
If you tell your child that they will be put in timeout, you must follow through and do it - every time. If you aren't consistent, the child will push you further and further until they rule over you.
4. Never make threats
Discipline should never be harmful or degrading. Making threats will turn the discipline and teaching opportunity into a punishment. Saying, "You better eat your dinner or you will get a spanking" ruins the teaching opportunity. Try, "You can chose to eat your food and have a treat, or you can choose not to eat your food and miss out on a treat."
Only give one warning before invoking discipline will also help avoid threats. When you keep repeating your threat or warning, the child will continually get away with the bad behavior. Kids are smart and learn to manipulate the situation when they know how to push their limits.
Place responsibility of choices on the child. It is not your fault they made a poor choice. They have agency. You are not a bad parent for enforcing the consequence caused by your child's decision. Talk them through the consequence so they can fully understand what has happened.
Plan consequences ahead of time. When they do something wrong, you already have the consequence ready. For example, if your child complains about receiving a timeout for hitting someone because they were hit first, your response could be, "I know you were hit first, but hitting is wrong and a timeout is the consequence." I remember my mother using this and it worked like a charm.
6. Expect respect
Never put up with back talk. Children will learn to be disrespectful if you allow it. It should not be brushed to the side or laughed off. I remember my mother saying, "I can see you made a choice to go to your room by being rude to your mother. You may come out when you decide you can be nice." That expectation of respect was never ignored.
7. Build them up
Give them positive feedback to know they are well and that they are good children. If your kids only hear about when they are doing bad things, it will weigh on them. Every consequence should be followed with a hug and by letting your child know you love them.
Every parenting style differs and no parenting style is perfect. However, disciplining is one of the hardest, most important things you will do while raising your children. Although I didn't appreciate discipline as a child, I am so grateful for the time my mother took to teach me these valuable life lessons.