Discipline Your Child in 3 Simple Steps
As a seasoned inner-city public school teacher, I’ve met and dealt with a lion’s share of disrespectful children, and in my experience I’ve learned that children will generally do what you allow them to do. Not only will children do what you allow them to do, but they will invariably do a little bit more. This is how they determine their boundaries, and they are constantly testing and reevaluating their boundaries by toeing and, at times, stepping past whatever lines you draw. For example, if you allow a child to smack their lips at you or huff when you correct or deny them, they will soon talk back to you. If you then allow them to talk back to you, they will soon insult and curse you. If you allow them to insult and curse you, then they will habitually disrespect you. If they habitually disrespect you, then you will have very little influence over that child as he or she will be continually aware that they are your social dominant and you will dread interacting with that child. You will have earned this disrespect with your complacence and lack of respect for yourself. To earn your respect back, you must discipline this child. This article will teach you how to discipline a child in three simple steps. Though I was tempted to claim that this article would teach you to discipline a child in three easy steps, the truth is that these three simple steps are not easy. It takes will and commitment, but if you’re frustrated with your child then you might have the conviction to take back control of your household.
1. Set High Expectations
Children challenge boundaries. This is part of their quest to understand the world. But as their intelligent providers, we can predict and counteract their deviance by setting our expectations well above the behavior that we find truly intolerable. In other words, ask for more than what you want. This way, you increase the likelihood that you will actually get what you want. For example, if you don’t want Johnny to beat up his little sister, make the rule that Johnny can’t disrespect his sister. If you tell Johnny that he can’t hit his sister, Johnny will hit her to challenge his boundaries. But if the rule is no disrespect, then Johnny will challenge his boundaries by insulting or harassing his sister. If Johnny is checked on his disrespect, the likelihood that he will hit his little sister is decreased, as hitting is a transgression of your rules by several levels. As an elementary school teacher, I’ve had to walk thousands of children in pencil straight lines through the halls of more than one elementary school under the watchful eyes of students, parents, and administrators, so it is not just a metaphor when I say that children step off the line one toe at a time. Children don’t naturally walk in straight lines. You must constantly mind them and remind them to stay in line. And if you don’t tell them to get back in the line, they’ll walk all over you on step at a time. They’ll get as far out of line as you let them get and one step farther, so don’t let them take one step out of line. By setting and maintaining high expectations, you can reduce the severity of your child’s transgressions.
2. Establish Consequences
Consequences don’t always have to be punishments. They can also be rewards. But I’ve never thought much of giving students candy for right answers. I don’t advocate rewarding behavior that is expected from a child. He or she should not receive a prize for treating you respectfully. There are appropriate occasions to reward good behavior, but I find that I get more mileage (so to speak) from rewards that are random and unexpected; conversely, punishments must occur reliably to prevent bad behaviors. Identify the behaviors that you want to correct and establish an elastic scale of punishments to respond to occurrences of the targeted behavior. The scale needs to be elastic because children build a tolerance to punishments; if you wash their mouths out with soap enough times they will get used to the taste. So vary your responses. In disciplining your child you should use every reasonable measure at your disposal: time-outs, groundings, restrictions of privileges, withholding possessions, and whatever other nonviolent punishments you can devise. Remember, however, that the punishment must be undesirable to the child. Sending a child to his room when his room is a video arcade is not a punishment. Rather, consider removing the video games first. This will send a message that he may remember, and that memory will favorably condition his behavior.
3. Follow Through
There is a social theory that I’ve found useful to keep in mind while working with children called the broken window theory. Basically, if the reader will tolerate my butchery, the theory expresses the idea that if there is a warehouse in a bad neighborhood, a child might throw a rock through one of its windows. If the windows are immediately repaired, it is less likely that windows in the warehouse will continue to be broken. Contrarily, if the first broken window goes unaddressed, the vandals will notice the disrepair and smash many more of the windows in subsequent attacks. This relates to disciplining a child in many ways and it is worthy of your reflection, but to immediately provide you with an interpretation, consider your rules as windows: Your child may break your rules, but if you address each situation immediately, overtime your child will break fewer rules. However, if you allow your child to break the rules and turn your head because you are too busy, lazy, or otherwise preoccupied, they will continue to break rules with greater frequency and severity. If you have a child who is causing you a problem, addressing that child’s behavior should be your new top priority. Accordingly,, take the time from whatever you are doing to properly address the situation. Remove your child from public view and treat the problem seriously. If you are at the grocery store, consider leaving your cart and bringing your child to your vehicle or a suitable isolated location to address the problem. Show your child that your rules are important by honoring the rules you have created. If you don’t follow your own rules and consequences, why would your child? Mean what you say and say what you mean. The moment you stop respecting one of your rules, your child will follow your lead.
Disciplining your child can be difficult if you’re both stuck in a cycle of bad behaviors, but change can only come from you, the adult. It is your responsibility to initiate change. It’s not easy, but it’s as simple as 1-2-3: impose high expectations, establish reasonable consequences, and enforce them consistently. Because of the love that you feel for your child, you may be tempted to soften your hand. But giving them short-term gratification comes at the cost of their long-term wellbeing, and this is not a trade that you will want to make. Be tough now and your child may cry now, but they will thank you later. Remember that sometimes you have to be the bad guy to be the good guy. A drunk person might think that it’s not cool of you to hide his or her car keys, but you should still do so because they are not in a state of mind to determine what is best for them. It is the same with children. Left to their own devices, they will make bad decisions. It’s okay for them to make some mistakes. This will teach them things. But when it comes to important matters, you, as the adult, must make the decisions for them. If they temporarily hate you for it, remember that sometimes you have to be the bad guy to be the good guy. Now go on and be the good guy (or girl) that you know you are!