What Is Proper Discipline?

Discipline

Discipline used to be a dirty word to me. It still has a sting to it. I had a hardcore ex-military step-father who loved to throw it around while he rampaged around the house demanding perfect order. His demands on us changed moment by moment based on his moods. A good mood meant we could be ourselves, even careless and carefree with our behavior. A bad mood meant we wished we didn’t even exist enough to leave a footprint in the carpet. This wasn’t proper discipline.

When it was time to have my own children, I was outright scared. I was terrified that I wouldn’t know how to bring up my children properly. Don’t we learn from the example? Don’t the statistics say we tend to repeat the bad traits of our own parents? I didn’t want to… but was I doomed to put my children through the same tortures I endured? That was when learning proper discipline became very important to me.

Discipline is more than “getting onto” kids, correcting them, spankings and time-outs. Discipline done right is just another word for Discipling, literally making your child into a follower of your example… a disciple. Therefore…

Proper discipline is achieved when we provide a relationship of love and consistency where children are shown the consequences of sin and the benefits of obedience.

Proper discipline starts with love.

We all love our kids… but love isn’t all hugs and kisses. Love holds a child down while they get their shots… because it’s good for them. Love exposes a child to food they don’t originally like. Love forces a child to focus on things they don’t have much interest in like homework or cleaning their room. Love is also patient and kind. It is not rude, self-centered or easily angered. Proper discipline starts with proper love.

Proper discipline is consistent and predictable.

When children think about crossing the line… they need to know even before they do it what is coming. Your response shouldn’t be based on mood or circumstance. We achieve consistency by having a vision for who we want our child to be, being patient and selfless, and having a set of expectations and basic rules established ahead of time. When children experience the same discomfort when they make mistakes and the same encouragement when they make good choices… they will move away from one and toward the other. This is greatly enhanced when they see the principals you set for them lived out in your own life.

Proper Discipline has consequences for bad choices.

When a child steps over the line, it needs to be uncomfortable for them. The consequences of the transgression need to outweigh the benefits. A child may want to loose their temper because it feels good to get so angry… but if the consequences of the behavior are severe enough, they will choose good behavior because it’s not worth it. What are those consequences? That’s where knowing your own child comes into play. Some parents use time-outs, some spank, some use isolation or loss of benefits. It’s all about what works best with the smallest effort from you… and doing it consistently.

Proper Discipline has benefits and encouragement for good choices.

This is the part most old school disciplinarians don’t get. It’s not enough to discourage bad behavior, you’ve got to encourage good behavior. Focusing only on the bad only teaches a child to not get caught. Focusing only on the good creates a child who believes they are entitled and can do no wrong. It’s only in the balance of both do we see the results we want. I don’t believe you have to reward every bit of good behavior… but encouragement is free and should be given liberally. It’s easy to catch a child being bad… we almost look for badness by default. I try to catch my daughter being good too. If I see her share her snack with her brother… I’m going to brag on her to her mom so she can hear. They like hearing you talk about them a lot more anyway. 🙂

More on consequences and rewards in future posts.

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