How to Discipline Children by Being Clear, Firm, and Consistent
- written by Helen Williams, a family counsellor and parent educator from New Zealand
The beginning of how to discipline children starts at their birth. The loving, respectful relationship that we grow with our children right from the start makes it possible for us to guide them toward positive behaviour. It is about setting up trust and guiding our children toward being able to make good choices for themselves. As our children develop a stronger sense of self, we help them to learn the right way by matching our methods with their age and ability.
Experience has shown me that the answer to the question of how to discipline children is:
Children learn best by being given clear, firm and consistent directions from parents who are clear, firm and consistent in their approach.
How to Discipline Children by Being Clear?
Find and maintain clarity within yourself, and then follow through on simple, clear instructions. Being clear means plain, obvious, and understandable in a clear, short sentence that explains exactly what you mean.
It isn't about maybe this or maybe that. Often parents have no idea that they chop and change their minds within minutes. To become clear about your own patterns of behaviour, observe yourself and ask for your partner's help in this.
"We are going to tidy up your toys in five minutes" is clear and direct.
Follow with: "Please help me tidy up your toys now" and it means just that.
Be firm with yourself. It doesn't mean soon, or later, but now.
I have seen parents give out this simple instruction, then become distracted themselves by a television programme, conversation or magazine, forgetting they have made this statement. What their children observe is parents saying one thing and doing another and this gives a much distorted message. Multiplied over many times each day, is it any wonder that children cease to follow simple instructions?
How to Discipline Children by Being Firm?
Find and maintain firmness for yourself and then follow through with firm clear directions in a firm, clear tone. Being firm means to be certain, definite, and determined. Also to be loving, kind and calm.
It means saying no and meaning no, or saying yes and meaning yes and sticking to it. It's about now being now. How often does your no become perhaps, later, maybe giving in, next time, soon, or alright then? This is a very common fault in how to discipline children and again it leads to numerous mixed messages for children. Resolve within yourself and with your partner's help to ascertain how often you are both easily swayed into changing your decisions.
Are you allowing your children to manipulate you? Imagine how simple your life will become when you are clear and firm within yourself.
It is every child's right to KNOW they can trust their parent's boundaries. So firstly, become firm with your own boundaries and then apply this to your parenting discipline. "It is bedtime, (bath time, meal time) in five minutes" is a clear direction. Now follow through on this.
Giving the direction in a calm, clear, firm tone of voice helps your children to understand that you mean what you say. Being firm is about being in control of both yourself and the situation.
How to Discipline Children by Being Consistent?
Find and maintain consistency for yourself and then follow through with a firm, clear, consistent approach. To be consistent is to be reliable, dependable and constant. These words immediately convey comfort don't they? Let's look at the opposite of being consistent. Contradictory, unpredictable, changeable. That's definitely lacking in comfort and safety. So how do you want to be seen by your children?
Do you want kids to feel safe and sure and trusting of you?
Do you want kids to think of you as reliable and true?
Do you want kids to know they can trust your words, your actions and your tone of voice?
It can seem quite time consuming to concentrate on clear, firm, consistent guidelines. Be aware that this is very true. It takes concentrated effort and time to change old habits to new ones, but if you maintain consistency, you will be very surprised how quickly new patterns of behaviour are formed.
Firm, clear and CONSISTENT adherence to daily routines creates both sociable, happy children and calm, contented parents.
With parenting discipline we are teaching our children how to have self-control, self discipline and to become self reliant, so they are able to make good choices for themselves. The only way children can learn to do this is by being given the opportunities for this learning.
This means not over protecting them, or doing everything for them, but maximizing their opportunities to learn through personal experience and observation, even when this means making mistakes.
Can you see the opportunities here to change some of your own patterns of behaviour into superior ones?
Clear, firm, consistent parenting is quality parenting.
You learn to trust your own responses and your children are surrounded by your loving constancy.
This is the recipe for creating a happy, well adjusted family.
About the Author:
Helen Williams is a family counsellor and parent educator from New Zealand currently living in Dubai, UAE, where she runs a busy practice called Counselling Dubai. As well as counselling clients, Helen runs regular Consistent Parenting and Becoming Authentic workshops. Helen has four children and is a proud grandmother and believes that being a consistent parent is both vitally important and totally necessary to ensure a happy family life. However, becoming a consistent parent is rather like trying to push water uphill if we are not consistent within our selves. Consistent Parenting Advice addresses HOW to adopt a firm, clear, consistent parenting approach, while enabling parents to enhance and increase their emotional well-being and become consistent themselves.