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Let’s put the ‘L’ plates on our kids and help them develop the character, self discipline and confidence that they need to tackle this world.
The root words of Discipline and Disciple are the same, in latin: Discipulus, which means ‘learner’. The latin word Disciplina means ‘Instruction’ or ‘Knowledge’.
What does discipline mean? In just one word: ‘training’. No. 10 is all about training. How to train your children to be in charge of their actions, character and emotions. Its learning the difference between punishment and consequences. To help out I’ve got some really great practical tools to help you in your training:
Three step guide to training the right behaviour,
8 Great tools to change and train good behaviour,
10 ways to administer consequences well
What is the goal?
The goal is to produce a child who is self governing and has self control. About knowing which action will bring the best result for them and for those around them Training your child, who even though they are tempted to do the the wrong thing, will dig deep and have the inner strength and resolve to do the right thing.
Put on the L PLates. Why Discipline is more about learning than punishment.
It easy to think of discipline as punishment and although punishment is a means to correct disobedience, the word discipline loses its power and meaning if reduced to this.
Discipline is as much training’ right behaviour as in correcting wrong behaviour. Your child has got 16-18 years with their learner plates on and we as parents have got our parenting ‘L’ plates on over this time as well.
Realise that training behaviour takes time.
It takes Months and Years. Ouch. Training is not a one off event, it is doing the same thing over and over until you have established a new pattern of behaviour. This could be two days if you are lucky, but more likely two weeks to two months until you have a change. But know this, it's totally worth it. The hard yards you put in for the next month will have you experiencing better behaviour for the rest of your years.
A three step guide to training the right behaviour
1/ Standards - 2/ Training plan - 3/ Rewards/Consequence
1/ What are your standards?
Be prepared and on the same page as your wife. Decide on your standards ahead of time as when they get tested you are going to need to believe that they are worth the training and retraining to achieve. Make sure that your expectations are realistic and achievable for the age and stage of life your kids are at. You can discover this by reading age group specific parenting books.
Here are some talking points to thinking about establishing standards for:
Manners, listening and obeying the first time, screaming in public :), how to treat others, sharing, kind words, swearing, helping out and hitting.
2/ What is the plan to train the right kind of behaviour?
This is where you want to be really smart, the best sporting teams don’t just turn up on game day and hope that it's all going to turn out right. They have a training plan and a game plan; ‘If we train the right things in advance we should get a winning result’. This is exactly the same with parenting. You want to think ahead to the behavioural and character standards that you want your kids to achieve and then plan the journey of training them.
You have two ways to plan, come up with your own plan or learn from others. Learning from others is an amazing way start, the more parents you talk to, books/blogs/podcasts/videos you absorb the readier you will be!
Check out this example here:
The Kindness of the day award - training kindness
We were having some issues with our older three acting selfishly. Being the first to get something, wanting the biggest piece, a lot of ‘me’ mindedness. So we decided to have an award at the end of each day where each kid would be able to tell us what kind action they did, we would write it up on a whiteboard and then I would judge the kind act of that day. There would often be many winners with a piece of chocolate as the prize.
To further help reinforce this we started saying very frequently, ‘treat others the way that you want to be treated’. If we found a conflict situation going on we would prompt the kids with ‘treat others……’ and they would finish off for us with …….‘the way you want to be treated’.
3/ What are the Rewards or Consequences?
After doing the first two, you are going to find you have arrived at either of these two destinations. Reward or Consequence. Either the kid is learning and getting it or the plan needs repeating or adjustment made. The goal with both of these is to reinforce good behaviour and establish self control. So plan ahead of time what the outcome will be.
When your kids have done the right thing, make a really big deal of it; give them a hug, a high five, a pat on the back and then give them affirming words with eye contact, get down on their level if you need too: ‘you did so well, thanks so much for listening, you are really good at this, well done, I’m so proud of you’.
Consequences and Punishment
Oh no, it didn’t work out. This is where you need to have a premeditated plan of action. Don’t use consequences that will leave you trapped or that you can’t follow through on, knowing the consequences before the situation comes up avoids these traps for example:
I asked for you to tidy up and because you didn’t:
a/ On the spot punishment: ‘you need to go to Bed 1 hour early’. Now you have to stop your normal family routine and put the kid in bed and keep them in there and possibly have them wake up early.
b/ Premeditated consequence: ‘you were going to be able to watch TV or read a book but you have used up all your time so now you need to spend that TV time tidying up’.
So before you make a request, think of what you you will do if the child doesn’t follow through.
8 Great tools to change and train good behaviour
Work as a team
When Mum and Dad’s standards are the same you are in a powerful position to see behaviour changed. Sit down and agree before time on what your standards will be. When you are in agreement then you have twice as many people reinforcing behaviour = 2. When you are out of agreement, its very confusing for the kids and also creates a good guy / bad guy scenario.
Don’t set a standard until you can agree. This is a great motto for family training: ‘Who is in charge, what are the rules, will they be enforced?’
If you have set a standard you need to follow it up. The standard gets enforced all the time. If you have told the kids to not jump on the couch don’t turn a blind eye when you are tired.
Getting the kids to do it on the first time - the key: follow through
How many times do you want to ask your child to do something. Do you want them to respond on the 1st, 3rd or ‘when you get angry and raise your voice’ time.
Here is the process:
1/ make a clear request with eye contact: ‘Jack, I need you to come over now’.
Jack doesn’t come
2/ Follow through, Walk over, get on their level ‘hey Jack, when I ask you to come over, I need you to do that straight away.
(be smart about reasonable requests and also its great to give a warning ‘tea is in a minute)
Give the child an option
Hey Buddy, do you want to come and do the dishes now or in a minute. This makes it about when they will do the dishes not if they will do the dishes. Do you want to run to bed or hop o bed.
Getting their brain activated.
If you do all the thinking for the kids then they will only be great at following orders, what you want if for your children to be able to assess a situation and make a wise decision.
Ask them to think of the outcomes - ‘Hey, if you do that, what good thing could happen, what bad thing could happen’. ‘If you don’t do this what good thing/bad thing could happen?’. So what do you think you should do?
Affirming who they are and can be
Speak out how you want your child to be: ‘Hey Gertrude, you are an amazing tidier. You are excellent at looking after your siblings. You are a great listener. You are really wise’.
Your voice in their lives creates their identity and will become one of the options they consider when making a choice.
If they counter this with ‘no I’m not’ go back with ‘I think that you will be’.
Write up the standards
If everyone knows the rules and rewards/consequences it's much easier to comply and aim for them.
We would write up a visual chart for all of the tasks that needed to be done before school. Then instead of following up on individual tasks we would just say ‘what's next on the list?’ - this is much easier and trains the kids to think for themselves.
A sticker chart or jar that you put a button in each time that someone takes a positive action is a great way to train behaviour. When the jar or chart is full think of a great reward you can give them. A hotdrink date with Mum, a special movie etc.
10 ways to administer consequences well:
Agreeing on discipline and being on the same page with Mum.
This way they know that they will have the same standards and consequences. Imagine living in a country and having different sets of rules to obey, it would be very confusing!
Get the full picture and don’t jump to conclusions
There are two sides to every story. If there are two children involved, make sure that you get both sides of the story before making a judgement call. Situations are not always what they seem. I recently asked 3 five year olds for their story about an incident that I had seen happen and they all got it wrong :)
Wins and lessons, failure is an opportunity to learn.
When the child misses the mark and fails, its a case of wins and lessons. You have got a golden light shining on an action or character trait that you can now see clearly and help steer this to being positive.
Be soft and strong
When you are discipling your kids, think how much you love them, what their potential is, what you are training them for and this will take the edge off any strong emotions that you may have. Be strong in sticking with the outcome that you have decided and follow through knowing that they will be better off for the lesson. Give them a hug at the end and tell them how much you love them.
The power of a long indepth talk.
Sitting down with your child and having a conversation that gets into the nitty gritty of the issue can be a very painful experience for your child and worse than taking away a benefit. It’s painful because you are digging into the ‘why’. This could take 10 - 20 minutes as you get to the heart of the issue.
Allowing yourself time
When the kids have let you down, you can be tired and angry and more likely to respond poorly and make a bad decision. You don’t have to do something on the spot. You can go away and have a think about how to handle this and also have a cooling down period.
If the child needs to be separated from the situation, you can send them to their bedroom for a time and then deal with them once you have calmed down
Punishments/consequences planned in advance
These are great to have up your sleeve for when you are in the moment.
Time out, no dessert, bed early, device taken away, no TV tonight, points taken off the chart.
Have a list of benefits that you get access to as being a member of the family.
If the kids misbehave then you can remove the right to this benefit:
TV, iPad, dessert, later bedtime (going to bed early), playtime, device time
The goal is learning not pain.
The purpose of consequences is not revenge because they have annoyed you so much. Its learning and teaching and understanding that actions have consequences.
Communicating why this has happened.
Its very important to ask why questions at the point of consequence. Why are you here in time out? Why do you think this happened? If they can’t figure it out then walk them through the process and also a future situation; What do you think you should do next time?
So Dads, jump in and be the Disciplier, trainer Dad!
Dictionary meanings of Punishment, Consequence and Discipline:
Punishment: the infliction or imposition of an undesirable or unpleasant outcome upon a group or individual.
Consequence: a result or effect, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.
The word Discipline:
1/the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience
2/ The ability to control yourself or other people even in difficult circumstances.