When we think of discipline rules for children, we probably think of our own parents and how they brought us up. Many parents try to copy their own upbringing in many ways. Others seek to reverse the trend if they suffered from over strict rules and had an unhappy childhood. Above all, we want to find pretty simple and enforceable rules that will result in reasonable behavior. If the kids are happy and the atmosphere is fairly relaxed then we really have found the formula for setting limits for acceptable behavior. Easier said than done? Let’s see.
The guiding principle is always, as far as I am concerned, to get the right balance between being too permissive and allowing children to take over the whole family and where there are clear limits as to what is acceptable or not. I have seen numerous cases of this where parents are actually prisoners of their children and where rules are practically non-existent and if they do exist, then they are applied in a rather inconsistent fashion. These families will find it really difficult to raise:
- kids who have learned self-control and who know that they cannot get what they want all the time
- children are respectful towards others
- kids who know how to lose, take turns and possess basic social skills
- children who know how to manage anger and control temper tantrums
- kids who can express what they are feeling and are able to communicate this effectively to their parents
- children who are autonomous and not protected by helicopter parents.
7 discipline rules for children
1. Everyone knows the rules
A great way to get everyone in the family on board is that rules are discussed and children are involved if their ages permit it. It is also a great idea to discuss why certain rules are in place and the reasoning behind them. Usually, these are in place to preserve the child’s safety and also build his or her sense of responsibility. Here are some tips to put these rules in place:
- Lists of rules are written down and displayed in a prominent place
- Writing them down with a list of rewards and consequences will help to reduce any arguments. Great time saver, this one.
- Carers and grandparents and partners/spouses are all on the same page as regards the rules and limits. They are committed to enforcing them too.
As kids get older, rules are adjusted and again, they need to be involved to discuss what is reasonable and ensure these are rules that work.
2. Give kids choices
It is great to give kids choices about what they want to do first when getting ready for bed. They can brush their teeth or change into their PJs. This usually works quite well because the child feels empowered and more important. The only problem is that some kids will turn this around to their own advantage and they start to include options that are inappropriate. They also start to question your choices!
The best way to keep the choices option viable is to use the following techniques which will help to avoid child behavior problems getting out of hand:-
- make sure the choices are practical. For example, you would avoid the choice between staying up late or reading a story to them.
- try to avoid choices which give you more work. If you do not want them in the kitchen while you have to prepare supper, don’t make that an option. Think of ones which will help you get on with the cooking rather than hinder you.
- think of choices as a way to get the idea of teamwork across so that the child feels involved in getting ready for school or preparing for bed.
- offer kids choices that help them to solve the issue. Instead of whining that the food is too hot and they have to wait and they are hungry, offer them a choice of blowing on it and you can help them to do that. That saves a lot of whining.
- use this technique of giving choices sparingly as younger kids tend to get frustrated and tired with having to make all these decisions.
3. You have to use the word ‘NO’ sometimes
When there are safety issues involved, parents just have to get down to the kids’ level and say firmly the word ‘NO’. This is what Emma Jenner recommends in the video below as there are times when it is absolutely necessary. This is where it is vital not to shout across the room because then it becomes a standard response and loses its force. That is not an effective way to discipline a child.
4. Consequences are fine but physical punishment is not
An essential part of any discipline program for kids and parents is to make sure that consequences are just a natural result when a child’s behavior problems create some issues. If a child fails to comply with the rule about placing dirty washing in the basket, then they go without any clean clothes for a while. It normally works. Just remember that when no consequences are in place, there will be no change whatsoever in the child’s behavior!
Of course, you would not let a child run out on the street as the natural consequence would be getting killed. Sometimes safety issues intervene and grabbing a child may be the only way to save them.
Many parents are still convinced that a good spanking or smacking is a great way on how to discipline a child. It is a quick and easy solution. The problem with using physical punishment and verbal abuse is that:-
- The child understands that physical violence is a way to resolve conflicts. That is a lousy life lesson they are getting!
- Verbal abuse and insults are almost as bad as they will damage the child’s self-esteem and he or she may grow up with an inferiority complex.
- As kids grow bigger and stronger, physical violence might get nasty and the teenager will use his force against the parent.
- Parents tend to be very angry when they hit a child and their brute force may actually injure the child. They are not really in control when they do that.
Fosters an unhealthy parent/child relationship where fear, resentment, and anger will be allowed to hold sway and influence both parents’ and kids’ behavior. The toxic atmosphere will affect the parent/child relationship in a negative way.
5. Switch off when kids start to whine or yell
One of the rules you can clearly establish and enforce is where you do not accept any whining or yelling, insulting or other abusive verbal behavior. You refuse to communicate when these things happen. Pretend you have not heard and remind them about the rule. Again, point to it on the notice board if it is nearby. Try whispering rather than shouting back- it is a great way to turn the temperature down! Surprisingly, this works really well because the child understands that real communication is only possible when the normal channels are used.
6. Rules are for everybody
When you swing from permissive parenting to authoritarian parenting, your kids are not getting a very clear message. They are getting some rather mixed messages. But when you show that you are supportive and give encouragement and rewards, the child is going to get a much more positive message about positive parenting and collaboration.
If parents abide by the rules and limits that they set, then that is a great way to move forward. For example, if you limit media time for kids, then you have to set the example too and put away that cell phone when you are eating together or doing some other family activity.
7. When the rules are broken…
It is instructive for parents to reflect on and assess their own emotions when the rules are disobeyed or when a meltdown is going on. Stuff happens but this is a great opportunity to assess your own emotions. Are you hurt? Are you frustrated and angry? If you are, then it is time to turn down the temperature because if these feelings dominate, then you cannot really effectively deal with the kids’ emotions.
We need to remember that the family is a microcosm of the big bad world out there. We want our kids to be balanced, responsible, generous, tolerant and autonomous when they get out there. The only way to guarantee that is to provide them with the coping skills they need. That is what positive parenting is all about.