The word “discipline” often evokes thoughts of timeouts, spanking, yelling, and loss of privileges. These methods can result in feelings of fear, shame, and a sense of being diminished. When overwhelmed by these emotions, it’s hard for anyone, especially children, to learn from their mistakes. True discipline, however, should be about growth, learning, and fostering connections.

I believe in a different approach to disciplining my children—one that involves being a source of comfort in challenging times, not adding to the chaos. Before resorting to traditional disciplinary tactics, consider pausing and reflecting.

Ask yourself: How can I guide my child through this? What is their behavior trying to tell me? What do they really need at this moment? Take time to genuinely understand the child in front of you, rather than focusing on just the behavior that frustrates you. Remember, all behavior is a form of communication; it often requires us to change our perspective and respond with compassion.

Listen attentively. When children feel truly heard, they become more open to learning from us. If possible, wait until their initial emotional reactions have subsided before you begin teaching or talking extensively. Always aim to mend and strengthen your relationship. Instead of demanding a simple apology, encourage actions that demonstrate genuine willingness to make amends.

Use consequences sparingly, ensuring they are respectful, reasonable, and directly related to the behaviour. Ideally, consequences should be discussed beforehand so that they are understood as logical outcomes, not arbitrary punishments.

You don’t need an extensive library of parenting books or the perfect words; your child needs your calm presence, your empathy when they are vulnerable, and your unconditional love and understanding.

At the Institute of Child Psychology, we have a membership that includes over 80 courses full of quick tips, concrete strategies and the latest research on how to help your child thrive!

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