A Comprehensive Approach to Discipline – Part 1: Build The Relationship

Have you heard about the “new” discipline? Shocking numbers of youth are displaying negative behaviors causing experts to reevaluate traditional methods of discipline.  Supporters of old ways stress the importance of providing children with swift and strong consequences for negative behaviors while more modern ideas support recognizing and encouraging positive behaviors. SPARC contends that neither of these effectively addresses the disciplinary needs of today’s youth.

Discipline is a positive learning experience that sets behavioral limits and guidelines through a system of teaching and nurturing that prepares children to achieve competence, self control, self direction and caring for others that will lead them to and through adulthood. That’s the long definition. The short definition for discipline is to teach.

Just as teachers must use a variety of methods to engage students and reinforce lessons learned, parents too must use a comprehensive approach to discipline for youth of today. Parents will be more successful if they do not rely on any one approach but have a broad variety of tactics at their disposal. They must provide appropriate consequences to deter negative behavior while noticing and encouraging positive behavior. Still, if they only focus on those two elements, an important aspect will be missing. A true comprehensive disciplinary plan must also take into consideration the parent-child relationship.

True discipline is most effective when it is exercised within a relationship that is rooted in respect, self control, dignity and love. Discipline is best when it occurs in the context of a relationship in which children feel loved and secure.

The purpose of discipline is to teach your children appropriate behavior. The goal of discipline is to move your child from parental discipline to self discipline. This only occurs when the values taught by the parent are internalized by the child and given a sense of worth. This is more likely to happen in a relationship where children respect their parents and feel loved and secure.

Parental self control is one of the most important aspects of establishing the supporting loving environment that encourages discipline. By exercising self control, even in the midst of a tense moment, parents model the appropriate and controlled behavior they expect from their child. What does a child learn from an angry parent who is screaming or yelling and completely out of control?  As you are your child’s primary teacher, is that the behavior you are trying to teach?

It is difficult for parents to sometimes take a look in the mirror when they see behaviors in their children that they do not like. Parents, if you have children who use foul language, please stop and ask yourself some very hard questions. Do you curse at your children when you are angry? Do you curse in front of them when you are angry at others? If so, can you really be very angry at them when they exhibit the behavior you in fact taught them?  Will you be respected for exhibiting the very behavior you are disciplining them for or will you be viewed as a hypocrite?

Now, make no mistake. Negative behavior in children must be dealt with no matter why it has appeared or where the behavior was learned. You would be shirking your duties as a parent if you chose not to deal with it because they learned the behavior from you. Checking your own behavior is simply the first step in ensuring that you have established a relationship of respect, love and support with your child.  If your child views you as a hypocrite, the bonds of respect will be weakened and your relationship can be damaged.

Every moment between you and your child will not be full of hugs and kisses, especially moments that involve discipline. However, if the relationship between you and your child is intact, you will be able to weather any storm.

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