As with everything in life, success in parenting comes with practice and planning. When you have a plan for discipline, you are not caught off guard by your child’s misbehavior and can respond with the most effective method of discipline. A discipline plan will allow you to:
- Remain calm in the face of your child’s worst behaviors.
- Issue a punishment that fits the crime.
- Ensure consistency.
- Get to the root of misbehaviors with discipline that teaches a lesson.
Identify chronic misbehaviors
Your first step in creating a discipline plan is identifying your child’s worst and most chronic misbehaviors. Think back a week or two. Pay attention over the next few days. Does your toddler drop his spoon from the highchair after every meal? Does your preschooler give you attitude every time you pick him up from school? Does your preteen frequently forget his lunch?
Be as specific as possible when identifying misbehaviors so you won’t have any problem recognizing them when they happen again.
Identify at least one misbehavior, but try to limit it to four or five. You want to do this for yourself and your child. You don’t want to exacerbate your child by disciplining for too many misbehaviors at once. And you don’t want to feel so overwhelmed that things are so bad you might as well not even try.
Decide on an effective discipline method
Once you have identified your child’s problematic behaviors, sit down to decide which forms of discipline are most effective. If you’re unsure, start small. Perhaps a verbal admonishment (and consistency) is all he needs for one particular misbehavior. But if it’s a behavior that’s been going on for months and none of your other methods have worked to eliminate it, perhaps a more painful consequence will be more effective.
Again, be as specific as possible. Think through how long you will take away his toys or how many days he will go without TV privileges. If you determine that a timeout is the best discipline method, write down the steps to implement one effectively.
The most important consideration when deciding on discipline methods is choosing one you can follow through on without hesitation. If you’re reluctant to take away your child’s favorite toy (and you know you would have a hard time in the heat of the moment), don’t use that as one of your discipline methods. You want to choose methods that you can be consistent with even in your weakest moments.
Post your discipline plan
Post your discipline plan somewhere in the house where you can refer to it often. You don’t want to go through all this work only to forget it all. Post it on the refrigerator or a kitchen cabinet.
Make your discipline plan a living document
Your discipline plan will change as your child does. As you conquer one misbehavior, you can cross it off the list and add another. Be sure to stay on top of your child’s misbehaviors and not ignore the ones that aren’t on your plan. Make notes on your plan about whether the discipline method you chose has been working and how long the misbehavior has been going on. If the behavior doesn’t go away in a week or two, it’s time to choose a new discipline method. Or you may discover that one discipline method you chose is too harsh for the misbehavior. Your discipline plan is not set in stone. Make notes and change it as you see fit.
In my next post, I’ll share my discipline plan with you.