10 Nonnegotiable Rules of Disciplining Your Children

Nobody ever says that parenthood is a piece of cake, and that's for good reason. Raising a child is a tough job, and the stickiest element is hands-down how to discipline a child. There's nothing fun about having to rein in a disobedient kid, and the situation can be made even tougher if it's a recurring problem (and seriously, isn't it always a recurring problem?!). However, even when your child is acting tyrannical, there are some hard and fast rules that you have to abide by as the adult. They're not always easy to follow, but you're going to see more positive outcomes if you stick to these basics.

  1. Start by being calm. Nothing good will come out of the situation if you are in a heightened state of agitation. Walk away for a few minutes if you must, but find a way to calm down before addressing your child's misbehavior. Try to take a few deep breaths and not try to discipline in anger so all your child remembers is how upset you were.
  2. Discipline privately. This one is super important to remember but parents forget how uneasy it can feel to be criticized in front of an audience. If you'd rather not discuss your own mistakes and repercussions in a group setting, allow for the same consideration towards your child. Kids tend to be more apt to listen when they aren't feeling defensive or embarrassed in front of others.
  3. Be kind. As impossible as it may seem to want to parent from a place of love when your child has smeared your brand new Fenty Beauty lipstick all over the carpet, don't forget the bigger picture. You are allowed to be upset with your child's disobedience or unruly behavior, but you should still be their nurturer and discipline with patience and gentleness. Use encouragement and not harsh criticisms to deter bad behavior.
  4. Stay consistent. Know beforehand what the rules are. If you're not sticking to a consistent message of when or how disciplinary actions are taken, your child can be left feeling bewildered. Make sure you are communicating clearly with your child and then staying the course when it is time to follow through. Also, avoid empty threats and be consistent with the consequences that will take place if a rule gets broken.
  5. Don't use physical punishments. There are numerous reasons not to implement corporal punishment when disciplining your child but the most important one is simply that it's ineffective. Not only does physically punishing a child not bring forth positive change in the child's behavior, but in most instances, it can cause detrimental effects. Plus, it teaches the child that hurting someone physically is okay as long as you think they deserve it.
  1. Pick and choose your battles. Be considerate and allow for small rule breaks or grievances to go unchallenged. No one enjoys someone nitpicking at their every fault and neither will your child. Allowing yourself to overlook or dismiss certain actions lets your child know that they aren't being subjected to impossible standards.
  2. Allow your child some alone time to reflect. Make sure you give your child some alone time to think over about what they've done and come to a conclusion on their own. This sets forth a great practice of mindful redirection and helps your child learn from their mistake. This isn't the same thing as a time-out because this time alone isn't being used as a form of isolated punishment, but instead for meaningful reflection.
  3. Be forthcoming about your expectations. Your child is not a mind reader, so make sure you are setting forth clear boundaries and rules that are easily communicated to your child. Disciplining your child should become easier once your expectations are communicated in a easy-to-comprehend manner. If possible, discuss what behaviors are unacceptable and what the consequences will be if the rules aren't followed.
  4. Make sure your rules are age-appropriate. Even a year makes a huge difference in the life of a smaller child, so don't set expectations and rules based on a friend's 5-year-old child when disciplining your own 3-year-old. Be certain that what you're expecting from your child is developmentally possible at their age and then keep in mind that every child is different.
  5. Let your child try again. Sometimes it can be very effective to gently nudge your child off a bad path by simply allowing them the opportunity for a do-over. This is an empowering tool for children's self-respect to be able to set their course straight again without a lot of interference from you. You can assist by offering suggestions such as, "How can we say this again without yelling?"