Some of the most sensible advice I have ever been given around parenting, is to keep discipline simple. The logic is quite sound – children need discipline and structure, but will fight hearing “no” every five minutes. Simple rules also help parents feel less like permanent buzz-kills. So, the trick is to have a bare minimum of rules that cover most eventualities.
Although my daughter is still little, we have already decided on a list of 7 simple rules that will support any discipline we will need when she is older –
- Always Be Respectful. In all honesty, this one really covers 98% of your bases. Respect toward other people, living things, property and the earth solves almost all issues and makes for pleasant people/children.
- Always Be Honest. Lying is a no-no. Punishment for deception should outweigh punishment for other infractions. And a child should not have to fear telling the truth.
- Never Be Destructive. This ties in with respect. Willfully damaging property or plants, is not acceptable behaviour and can become a sign of underlying problems.
- Animals Are Never To Be Hurt. Animals are to be respected and cared for. If an animal is in distress due to a child’s involvement, the child is punished.
- What Goes For Children, Goes For Adults. We can not expect our children to act a certain way, if we do not set the same example. As such, we should be respectful, honest and careful ourselves.
- Bullying Is Unacceptable. Every day we read about the damage bullies cause, but never about their parents. Raise your child not only to not be a bully, but to defend others against bullies where they can.
- Two Warnings, No More. This is important when it comes to consistency. A toddler and a teenager can argue for days and sometimes the debate is healthy, but when it comes to the basics, two warnings are all you get. The second is purely giving a child the benefit of the doubt, as they might not have heard you the first time. After the second warning, whatever the family’s agreed upon punishment is will be enforced.
A few extra tips
- Be consistent.
- Be clear on what punish options are available to you.
- Be a parent first and a friend second – as humans we crave love and acceptance and warm fuzziness, as parents we sometimes need to sacrifice these to raise our children right.
- Once your child is old enough, teach cause and effect.
- Find the punishment best suited to your child.
- Have an open door policy – children often respond better when they can discuss matters, including discipline, with their parents openly.
- Remember that you are raising a child to become a contributing adult, not to remain a child.
These are just a few very basic guidelines and they take time and patience to lay down. Once they are there, they become character traits and principles that serve adults as well as they do children.
Special credit to my parents and in-laws, whose rules and principles I have adapted and combined for the purpose of this article and raising my own child.