Parents Report Card: Tips on Being Clear about Discipline

As the second “C” of an Effective Discipline Report Card, we are going to continue exploring this concept of being clear as critical to effective discipline. In the previous blog, I shared Mel Silberman’s concept of getting clear within yourself about exactly what you are expecting and making sure these expectations were combined with an appreciation for typical developmental behaviors. There can be many typical, age-defined behaviors children will exhibit that can challenge a parent’s patience! Somehow knowing a child’s behavior as typical can ease some of the frustration. He or she really is not out to get you!

Tips for responding to challenging behavior

Diane Wagenhals, Program Director, Master Trainer, Curricula Writer, Researcher, Mother and Grandmother

As you continue to get clearer within yourself before deciding how you will respond to difficult or challenging behavior, you can do the following:

  • Be aware of your own feelings: it is important for a parent to be clear about his or her emotional response in a situation when disciplining a child. Those feelings need to be honored, and yet should not be directing a parent’s response. By first acknowledging how you are feeling (“I am so disappointed!” “I feel really betrayed right now!” “I’m so frustrated!”) You are more likely to be able to take that deep breath, calm yourself and then focus on being clear in a much more objective way.
  • Prioritize decisions:  Decide what is critical to do or change versus what would be nice. “Choose your battles,” by deciding between those issues that are really important to you and those that you can comfortably live with so that you are not always battling and saying “no.”
  • Is this something that needs a response? Continuing with the example from the previous blog when an eight-year-old child has stolen money from his parents… This parent can have some strong feelings of betrayal and disappointment when discovering money was stolen from his or her wallet. Being able to take that proverbial deep breath, recognizing typical behavior, and seeing the opportunity to discipline in a way that teaches versus punishes, allows a parent to then prepare him or herself to prioritize.

Invitation to Reflect:

  • A side note:  This is not a time to ask the child if he did the crime because this is an age of lying.  He will most likely add lying to his list of crimes if the parent asks him because he will say, “No!”  Instead, the parent can just assume that he stole the money and can begin talking to him without giving him a way to deny that he did it. “I know you took some money from my wallet, so we now need to talk about what to do about this.” Of course the parent needs to be very sure he/she is correct, so a child is not falsely accused.
  • This incident is probably serious enough for the parent to want to respond versus ignoring or minimizing the seriousness of the behavior. The parent can keep in mind the normalcy of this child’s behavior but still will want to address it as a time to teach some important lessons about honesty and trustworthiness.  The parent may want to consider ways to talk to the child, the messages to communicate, and a disciplinary consequence that holds the child accountable and gives the child a way to make amends.
  • How can it make you as a parent feel if your child steals from you? What do you need to do to get to a more common objective place in your own head?
  • How can you prioritize your response based on a more objective analysis of the situation rather than an emotional response?
  • Are you clear about your priorities? If not, how can you gain that clarity?

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network