Discipline is often a touchy subject in many Christian families.
One type does not work for all children, even children in the same family.
Unlike hand-me-down clothes, discipline must be tailored to the individual child.
Children of varying ages and stages of development must be dealt with accordingly.
The practice of discipline
Set few rules -- keep them clear, concise, age-appropriate, reasonable, and measurable, when possible.
Tie the rules to real consequences -- natural consequences are a result of certain behaviors.
Distinguish between "by accident" and "on purpose" in disobedience -- childish irresponsibility versus willful disobedience. Accidents should be handled with patience and understanding.
Teach your child that waiting is part of life.
Turn the key of consistency in your child's life -- if we as parents threaten to enforce consequences and do not follow through we only confuse the child. Consistency is the key to setting loving limits.
Before you discipline
- Ask your child these 3 questions:
- Did you understand what you were doing?
- Did you know it was wrong?
- Did you know what might happen to you for doing such a thing?
(with an older child you may use the word consequences, but a young child will not know the meaning of the word.)
If your child answers in the affirmative to these 3 questions, you've established:
- the child knew what he was doing;
- he willfully disobeyed;
- he knew there would be consequences.
Children often get involved in things that they don't understand are wrong or dangerous. Deal with those types of infractions differently than you deal with incidents of willful disobedience.
Once you determine that you're dealing with willful disobedience, determine the most effective form of discipline for this incident. (Whenever possible, determine consequences for specific behaviors in advance, clearly communicate them to your child, then enforce them when needed.)
Don't wait too long between the offense and the discipline. Otherwise, the issues and reasons for the discipline will become blurred in your child's mind (and in yours as well). When you've determined the appropriate discipline and how that discipline will help modify your child's behavior positively when he learns a lesson, then apply it.
Afterward, look your child in the eyes and say: "I love you. You've done wrong, but I still love you. I don't want to go through this again, do you? Let's learn from this experience and go on." Then hug your child. Discipline should leave your child with the assurance that he is always loved, no matter what.
Adapted from Christian Parenting.
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