Discipline is about helping children learn how to behave.
Many fathers we work with have a misguided view of discipline. It is one of the most misunderstood topics and one that results in many fathers being referred to our program. Their discipline style is based upon how they were raised in a different time and different context. They never evaluated whether the discipline they experienced was appropriate or effective in shaping their behavior. Let's begin by establishing that discipline derives from the Latin word "disciplus" which means to teach and guide, not designed to threaten, and harm our children.
One of the biggest lessons I learned is: RULES without RELATIONSHIP equals REBELLION!
Discipline works best if you have warm and loving relationships with children. Babies need warm and loving care to feel safe and secure. For toddlers and older children, discipline means setting limits and consequences and encouraging good behavior.
Here are the ten discipline strategies I have learned over the years:
Spanking and harsh words are harmful and don't work. Here's why:
Spanking's unhealthy cycle: Instead of teaching responsibility and self-control, spanking often increases aggression and anger in children. A study of children born in twenty large U.S. cities found that families who used physical punishment got caught in a negative cycle: the more children were spanked, the more they later misbehaved, which prompted more spankings in response. Spanking's effects may also be felt beyond the parent-child relationship. Because it teaches that causing someone pain is OK if you're frustrated—even with those you love. Children who are spanked may be more likely to hit others when they don't get what they want.
Lasting marks: Physical punishment increases the risk of injury, especially in children under 18 months of age, and may leave other measurable marks on the brain and body. Children who are spanked show higher levels of hormones tied to toxic stress. Physical punishment may also affect brain development. One study found that young adults who were spanked repeatedly had less gray matter, the part of the brain involved with self-control, and performed lower on IQ tests as young adults than the control group.
Verbal abuse: Yelling at children and using words to cause emotional pain or shame also has been found to be ineffective and harmful. Harsh verbal discipline, even by parents who are otherwise warm and loving, can lead to more misbehavior and mental health problems in children. Research shows that harsh verbal discipline, which becomes more common as children get older, may lead to more behavior problems and symptoms of depression in teens.
Consider these tips and put them into your Discipline Toolbox