The term ‘discipline’ often carries with it negative connotations that many people find offensive. Discipline has become attached to strict parenting and harmful behaviour, that many caregivers wish to avoid and depart from.
However discipline actually means to teach. It’s crucial that as adults and caregivers in children's lives, we provide a safe and secure environment that guides and teaches appropriate, respectful behaviour.
Most discipline techniques that used to be commonplace have long been left behind, and lots of parents and guardians feel lost about the best ways to teach and guide their children. It’s essential that caregivers know and adopt effective and healthy discipline strategies, so we can confidently raise secure, healthy and resilient children.
Healthy Discipline Techniques
Healthy discipline techniques ensure children are taught appropriate ways to behave and they’re kept safe from harm. Children learn to manage their behaviour and benefit from healthy development.
Show Affection and Attention
Children often misbehave as a way to get attention. Children should never have to work for their caregivers' attention, it should be given generously. When you dedicate quality time to connect with your children and build a positive relationship, they will feel less need to misbehave.
Make sure you chat with your young person every day. This keeps communication open between you and any issues are more likely to be shared. You can be more aware of the difficulties your child is facing, and you can both enjoy a deeper connection.
Get to really know your child, notice who they are and what they do. This type of attention allows your children to feel really loved and noticed. When children feel secure in their guardians’ love in this way, they have less need to act out for attention.
A positive relationship will help your children make better choices; they’re more likely to be honest with you about issues they have, rather than misbehave out of fear, frustration or loneliness.
Know Your Child and Be Prepared
When you understand your child well, you can better understand their behaviour and choices. You can also more accurately predict situations that might trigger poor choices or misbehaviour.
Every child has sensitivities or difficulties that are unique to them, and by understanding these traits in your child you can support and guide them more easily.
Prepare yourself and your child for situations that may trigger poor behaviour or choices; put things in place that can support them and outline the expectations you have beforehand. Make clear the boundaries for behaviour and consequences if they behave inappropriately.
Bear in mind that some children struggle with sensory issues or anxieties around certain situations e.g. social anxiety. Chat with your child before a potentially triggering situation, ask them if they’re worried about anything, provide emotional support and guidance around the best ways to handle their worries. Be the safe person your child can come to if they feel overwhelmed or upset.
Your child will learn to trust you, rely on you for support and guidance, and will feel more able to handle difficult situations. They are more likely to feel calm and capable of making good choices.
Praise, Praise and More Praise!
Focus on the positive you see in your child, notice the thoughtful behaviour they show and the progress they make. Be sure to tell them what a great job they’re doing and go big on the details! If you see them helping others and being kind, tell them what a great job they’ve done and why it matters.
This kind of positive feedback from you will help build your child’s confidence. When you notice the efforts they make, they will feel encouraged and are more likely to make better choices and behave in positive ways.
Consistent praise also helps to cushion the times you need to address bad choices and poor behaviour with your children.
Choose Your Battles
It’s a good idea to only pick up the misbehaviour that really matters. If you reprimand your child for every mishap or negative display of behaviour, your child is far less likely to listen to what you have to say. They will also learn they get a lot of attention when they misbehave, albeit negative attention, and their belief in themselves will dwindle.
Sometimes it’s better to ignore bad behaviour, if your young person isn’t placing themselves or anyone else in danger. It can also be beneficial to let your child learn natural consequences. For example, if your child throws their toys around and they break, they learn that behaviour will damage their things. This will provide a far greater lesson to them than a caregiver constantly telling them, “No”.
Distract or Redirect
Often children misbehave when they’re bored or frustrated. They don’t know what to do with themselves or how to spend their time, and they grow increasingly frustrated by the boredom and uncomfortable emotions that arise.
Provide lots of opportunities for your young people to have purpose and autonomy. If at home, allow your children free access to toys and activities so they can amuse themselves and direct their own activities.
Enrol your kids in classes that will keep them inspired and active. This will promote self- confidence, provide opportunities to build new relationships and build positive experiences.
Young children can usually be easily distracted from upset or boredom. Involve them in the tasks you’re doing as much as possible; chores can be made into games and races. Sing them songs, tell them stories or point out interesting things around you. If they have your attention and something to do, they’ll be less likely to whine, complain or misbehave.
Set Limits and Give Consequences
In order for your young people to make good choices, they need to understand what is expected of them and realise the consequences of poor choices.
Set appropriate limits for your children that they can understand and follow. Outline clearly and consistently the safe boundaries you would like them to keep to, and the behaviour you will and will not accept. Explain simply why you have these limits in place so your child can appreciate why they matter.
If your child makes a bad choice or breaks a boundary, allow natural consequences to teach and guide them as much as possible. This way your child will learn the significance of the limit without you having to intervene.
One of the most important aspects of effective communication is listening. Give your child the opportunity to explain their point of view, and really listen to what they have to say.
Do your best to understand what is happening from your child’s perspective. Underneath the action will be emotions and triggers that led them to make the choices they did, stay calm and non-reactive so you can hear them out.
Repetitive patterns of poor behaviour are a sign that something else is amiss, and communicating well with your child is critical to learning how best to help them.
Teach and Guide
The best ways to discipline a child involve teachable moments and clear supportive guidance. Discipline is about helping your child develop into a well-rounded adult who can enjoy loving relationships and thrive in every area of their lives.
Discipline is not about punishment or shame. It is about helping your child make the best choices, reflecting on mistakes and being accountable for their behaviour. It’s also about respect for others and helping them develop robust morals that will act as a firm foundation for every decision they make.
At the centre of healthy and effective discipline is connection and love. Loving your young people no matter what behaviour they display, and at the same time providing secure boundaries that keep them safe. All the while, explaining and communicating so you can understand one another as well as possible.
The best ways to discipline a child involve love, security, safe boundaries and the opportunity to grow. As adults, it’s your privilege to help the children in your lives grow into the best people they can be.
Want to learn more about how you can work with your child to improve discipline? Join our Facebook groups to speak with other parents and see how our Warrior Method has helped with their own children's discipline.