Three Steps to Discipline with Love

Be consistent, stay calm, and give positive attention
By Asad Ghiasuddin, M.D., Kapiolani Child Psychiatrist 

Three Steps to Discipline with Love

For many of us, the word “discipline” brings to mind punishment and tears. But discipline is really about teaching your child right and wrong, experts say. If you approach discipline in a constructive, loving and consistent way, you will help your children learn cooperation, responsibility, and respect.

The best discipline involves laying groundwork so you don’t use consequences too often. The more positive attention you can give your child, the less restricted a child feels—and the fewer consequences you must enforce. Here are three important steps:

Be Consistent

All kids will test rules and limits. If your boundaries keep shifting, this increases the amount of testing a child will do.

Stick with the same rules and enforce them consistently. It helps to create a daily routine for your kids so they understand what is expected of them at different times of day.

Structure and consistency are not only comforting for kids, but vitally important for healthy growth and development. When they know what to expect from the world around them, they feel safer—and it’s easier for them to handle the occasional bump in the road.

Stay Calm

Parents can expect emotional outbursts, tears and tantrums. Just don’t go there yourself. By keeping your cool during conflicts, you serve as a good role model.

If you are about to lose it, then take a breath and step back to regroup. If you act in the heat of the moment, you are more likely to say or do something you’ll regret.

That includes spanking—which should not be part of discipline. Experts agree that hitting children increases their aggression and anger. It also sends a risky message: It’s OK to hurt others to control their behavior.

Give Positive Attention

Make a point of catching your kids doing the right thing—and then offering praise. Comments such as, “I like the way you’re paying attention” or “You’re sharing nicely with your sister,” will boost your child’s selfimage. Letting your kids know when they are doing something right is just as important as letting them know when they are doing something wrong.

Set aside time each day—even 15 minutes—to play or positively interact with your child. Let your child choose what to do during that time. If kids can take charge some of the time, they are more willing to go along with our rules at other times.