I think one of the most difficult parts of parenting is discipline. It's not just hard because the kids are so cute and you love them so much. It's hard because there's so much to factor in when you try to find the right method of discipline for your kids. Were the methods your parents used impactful or traumatizing? Can you and their other parent agree or at least find a middle ground? What are your friends doing? What do experts say? Are there special circumstances to consider?
Before you even begin to consider your individual parenting beliefs, you have to consider the other people involved in raising your children. For me, my husband is the most important person to consider. Sure, our son's well-being is at the forefront of every decision, but my husband and I are a team that needs to work together to be successful. In fact, we sat down and had a discussion about discipline before our son was even born.
The two of us are solely responsible for raising another human being to go out into the world as an adult someday. We wanted to teach him respect. We wanted to instill in him the values and morals that we believed in. How would we teach him to be the best possible version of himself? What mistakes had we made through life that he could learn from? We wanted to open his life to a world filled with opportunity. And we figured that meant we needed to use a healthy mix of example setting, character building, and accountability for his mistakes.
So, we set some rules for discipline. We figured it would be easier to plan ahead, especially when it came to teaching right from wrong. Obviously, there are times when the rules don't always apply. We sometimes have to bend them to meet the demands of the situation we are facing. But, these rules have helped us discipline our son effectively. And I like to think they've helped us raise him into a respectful, considerate, and caring little man so far.
- Listen! Even when someone is wrong, listen to what they have to say. There's always three sides to a story.
- Set a good example. You need to practice what you preach.
- Be clear with rules and expectations. Leave nothing for interpretation.
- Be flexible. There are some issues that don't fit the mold. They deserve fair judgment.
- Praise good behaviors, don't just scorn bad ones.
- Be consistent.
- Empathize. Never discredit feelings. Kids should be entitled to embrace and express their feelings. Let them know that you understand them.
- Keep a sense of humor.
- Provide insight on how they can change behaviors. Make it clear that mistakes are normal. We ALL make them. Stress the fact that trying hard not to repeat mistakes is what matters.
- Always end with "I love you." Let it be known that it's the behavior you don't like, not the person. No matter how many mistakes they make, it doesn't change the fact that they are so loved.
However, there's one golden rule that tops the rest: always back each other up. It's easy to plan to discipline your child one way and then fail completely. Add to that the fact that my husband and I have different approaches, backgrounds, upbringings, and beliefs. No matter how hard we plan, there are times when we argue when disciplining our son. But we never let him see that. It's so important to create a unified front. Because when we aren't on the same page, our son senses our weakness — and totally plays us. So even if we don't agree, my husband and I back each other up. We can always argue or discuss ways to improve at a later time, in private. But as far as our son knows, there's nothing to discuss. It's two against one when one of us sets a rule.
Discipline is hard. It can be particularly difficult sticking to your guns — kids have a way of pulling at your heart strings! But, doing our best to follow this list of rules has been the best thing we could do to help our son prepare to be on his own someday.