In recent weeks we’ve mentioned the importance of consistent discipline when it comes to effective parenting. One of the most important things to remember about discipline is that it must be done in love.
When a parent has communicated his or her expectations and a child still misbehaves, it’s time to enforce those standards by deciding which method of punishment is most appropriate and effective.
At this point, we need to remember that discipline is something we do for our children, not just to them. It should never give us emotional satisfaction or satisfy our need for revenge.
Its purpose should be only to build within our kids a respect for authority and create a mental connection between disobedience and displeasure. As we consider discipline methods, we have several options.
Grounding: Restriction from certain friends, activities, or pleasures. For smaller children, this may be called a “timeout” (or something similar) and last a very brief time. For a younger child, a grounding from toys or television may last from a few minutes to a few hours. For older kids and teens, this period may last a day or several weeks. The key is to set the parameters and stick to it.
Extra Chores: For kids who are capable, some parents may assign additional housework like taking out the trash, cleaning the garage, or working in the yard. Be careful, though—this reinforces the idea that home maintenance is punishment, which can have negative consequences once a child reaches responsible adulthood.
Restitution/Repentance: In situations when a child has hurt another child or committed an offense against society, this can be a very effective discipline. Having a child acknowledge guilt, ask for forgiveness, and restore anything that was damaged or taken will often teach a very valuable lesson.
Spanking: This is a highly controversial method and many parents choose not to include it among their discipline options. While not the answer for every situation, it can be swift and effective, and is the most recommended form of discipline in the Bible (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15).
If you do decide to spank, please do so sparingly. In a kind but authoritative manner, make the swat hard enough to hurt but not hard enough to cause damage. And always follow up a spanking by giving the child affection. Karen and I always prayed with our children after we disciplined them, asking God to bless them.
Once you have chosen a method of discipline, be careful how you administer it. Cool down first. Keep your emotions under control. Correct the child in a private place—not in front of his or her friends. Never scream at your child or shame them publicly.
In private, explain that they have disobeyed and must face the appropriate discipline. Affirm them. Tell them you love them. Explain that you are proud of them, but you can’t allow them to misbehave or violate your standards.
In the end, children who are disciplined in a consistent, loving manner feel accepted and secure. Consistent discipline protects the home by producing an environment of peace between parents, children, and siblings. Do not let discipline be an afterthought. If you haven’t already, discuss now with your spouse how you will approach discipline in your family.