Child Discipline

Child discipline is the basis for a positive and secure environment for development. Discipline and a clear daily routine give the children a sense of security.

When children feel safe, they will start experimenting and learning. If they do not feel safe, they might feel stressed. As explained in Effects of Divorce on Children, stressed children become dysfunctional, aggressive or even depressed.

In Child Discipline, we will discuss:

Positive reinforcement

Instead of punishing or correcting unwanted or unacceptable behaviour, it is better to reward the expected behaviour. Children growing up in a so called Learning Environment will find the reward from within. For example: if a child studies enough, it will get high grades and along the respect of his class mates, his teacher and his family members and most importantly he will find out it increases his perspectives. The child can be rewarded with the long wanted membership of his preferred basketball club if he performs well at school.

Children in a Performance Environment will receive an external reward, like a new iPod. Here, there is no long term relationship with the high grades and the reward. Next time, you will have to buy him another present. The key message here is that the child does not learn from receiving an iPod as a reward for his high grade.

Correcting disobedience

If the rules are not respected, children must be corrected. You have 2 alternatives: punish the child or let the child face the natural consequences. Punishing children makes them aware of their disobedience, of course. However, usually there is no link between their behaviour and the punishment.

For example: Tim arrives at home late for dinner. You can punish him by reducing his weekly allowance. Studies have shown that this type of punishing does not change his behaviour in the long run, because he does not learn from it.

Alternatively, you can let him face the natural consequences: no food for Tim this evening.

The rule is clear: dinner is served at 19:00 hours for the whole family.

How to make rules as co-parents

One of the important aspects of child discipline is the rulemaking as co-parents. For rule-making both communication and cooperation are important. Here you find the 11 steps for rule-making. Follow these 11 steps and your children have a good understanding of what kind of child discipline you as co-parents expect from the children:

  1. Find a moment and time when both you and the other parent can have a calm and relaxed talk.
  2. Make clear to the other parent why you believe it to be important that there are rules and discipline for your child based on both your opinions.
  3. Explain the other parent that you want the child to know that you will continue to parent as a team. Also explain that the other parent's input is very important to you.
  4. Decide on the topics you need rules and discipline about.
  5. Discuss per topic what would be best for the children and based on that formulate your rules. Do not interupt each other during the discussion. Keep the level of your voices down and keep civil.
  6. Be fair to the children in setting the rules and make sure that the rules can be followed in both homes. Preferably write the rules down to avoid disagreement later.
  7. Be realistic in setting the rules. Some rules may be needed in one house and not in the other. For instance, it may be okay for a child to ride a bike on one parent's dead-end street, but unsafe on the other parent's busy highway.
  8. Discuss and decide on what type of punishments are appropriate if rules are broken or discipline is not met.
  9. Acknowledge and accept that bending the rules or making exceptions to the rules and discipline may happen once in a while, as long as it does not happen all the time.
  10. Make a promise that as soon as a problem arises, you will contact each other and will talk to each other.

Child discipline and rules will have to change as your children grow and change themselves. Make a planning to discuss the rules and childe discipline regularly and talk to the children about the rules if possible.

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