4 C’s of Discipline
Before I became a parent, I did not understand why parents had a difficult time disciplining. Disciplining at that time seemed like a black and white issue. The kid does something wrong and they get punished. It all adds up. Then I became a parent and quickly realized that parenting is one big world of grey. There are some black and white issues, such as, hitting or hurting others. These are non-negotiable and require some type of discipline. However, then there are grey issues, like do their shoes really have to be in the closet, is running in the house that big of a deal, or is it a problem that they take over an hour to eat dinner? Are those things you discipline for? Are they even a big deal or am I getting caught up in unnecessary power struggles?
In this blog, I can’t answer all of your grey area questions because each family unit is different on what they do and don’t allow. However, I want to teach you the 4 C’s of discipline that will help fine tune the techniques you are using in your home to help decrease negative behaviors demonstrated by your kiddos.
Before you read this, you should know that I am looking in a mirror while writing this. Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and that includes working retail during Christmas time and working in a children’s residential psychiatric unit). There is no simple path to parenting and no magical solution except maybe Elf on the Shelf, which causes a semi-magical increase of good behaviors when he’s around. For the sake of being transparent, I’ve definitely dug “Elfie” out of the closet mid-April to do some check in behaviors because parenting is exhausting! Take a deep breath. Being a parent is hard, but we are all in the same boat together, which usually feels like it’s sinking. I hope these techniques help us plug a few of the holes in our sinking boat.
The 4 C’s to Discipline:
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Proverbs 13:24
The first step to discipline is compassion. This may sound like a strange C, but discipline is rooted in love. The word discipline actually comes from the Latin word discipulus, which means “Pupil.” A good math teacher works relentlessly with students who struggle to understand the equations. I mean seriously, why are there alphabet letters inside of a math problem anyway? Nevertheless, I digress. The good teacher finds the struggling students and gives time to help them figure it out. A good math teacher doesn’t leave her students struggling and allow them to fail the test. She comes alongside them and provides support. Now, working math problems over and over certainly doesn’t sound like a labor of love, or at least it doesn’t to me. However, the love is rooted in the teacher’s dedication to make sure her students are successful. Parenting is the same concept. Disciplining is the parent’s way of coming alongside of their children and being dedicated to help keep them on the right path to be successful.
“Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.” Proverbs 29:17
The second important step to discipline is to be conscious. You are probably thinking, “What does she mean? I’m not giving my kids instructions while I’m asleep,” except that you kind of are. However, instead of being asleep, how many parents are guilty of giving your kids instructions while being infatuated by a TV show or your iPhone? My mirror reflection and myself are both raising our hands and nodding at each other (Gosh…she just gets me). We give commands all the time while we are not truly present in the situation. Our kids tend to ignore half-hearted instructions, which leads us to tell them multiple times and then eventually can lead to yelling. Then the few times where we are present, we wonder why our children don’t listen the first time we ask them to do something. You not being conscious while giving direct commands is only reinforcing your child’s refusal to follow directions. Be present in the situation, know what’s happening, speak directly, and then provide positive praise when they listen the first time.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
The 3rd step, which could honestly be the only step, is consistency. Y’all…I could pitch a tent and camp on this topic for months, but I won’t to save my fingers from cramps and because you are reading this blog super quick so you can get back to being conscious and present with your kids (see what I did there…). At the end of the day, consistency in your discipline style is what’s going to decrease negative behaviors and increase positive ones. You cannot put your kids in time-out over shoes not being in the closet, check out and not care about the shoes for 2 months, and then check back in and put them back in time out because the shoes still aren’t in the closet. A good tip is to identify and write down what your non-negotiable rules are, post them in your house, and then stick to them. We live in a society where people try out a new parenting technique every few days. You wouldn’t believe how many times parents come to my therapy room and say, “I tried time out for 2 days and it just didn’t work out for us.” I am all about trying out new techniques and figuring out what’s best for your kiddo. However, you have got to stick to the routine for a consistent amount of time.
If you are a parent just now showing up to the party and are ready to buckle down and gain control of your life, I would suggest sticking to a consistent discipline technique for 6+ months. It takes time! We have to allow ourselves time to master the techniques and then give our kids time to call our bluffs. If you are inconsistent in your discipline, then you are encouraging inconsistent responses. Figure out what works for you guys and then stick to it!
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
The last step to remember is collaboration. Find a positive group of friends and a mentor and spend time with them. Being a parent is hard, tiring, overwhelming, and frustrating. The good news is that you aren’t alone! Plug in with a group of positive moms and find a mentor who is willing to invest in you. If you feel completely isolated and that no one is available (which I don’t believe is true), then read books. I don’t care how many kids you have and how long you’ve been a parent, parenting is not something that can be mastered. We can never stop growing and learning about how to better lead our children especially in our ever changing society.
These are 4 very basic, yet complex steps to effective discipline. Parenting really is a world of grey that is hard to navigate alone. Remember that mess-ups are inevitable and being a perfect parent is non-existent. I’ll leave you with these encouraging words…it’s NEVER too late to start effectively disciplining your kids and training them up right.