How to Discipline Kids: What I’ve Learn

Recently, my sister and her two children came to Long Beach to pay a visit to my family. Their weeklong stay was filled with excitement, activity, and laughter! Unfortunately, happiness wasn’t the only thing that filled these seven days. My son, Ethan, normally a very happy and well-behaved child, suddenly became a midnight terror. Relentlessly running around and hitting his cousins, Ethan persevered without remorse. I realized that my child was in need of some serious discipline.

Does this sound like you: You know that what you’re doing isn’t really working, but you’re not sure how to make things better. Rest assured, that’s okay—you’re not supposed to know all the answers. Many parents have a hard time being consistent and struggle because of guilt, self-doubt, or just sheer exhaustion.

Here’s the good news—you can overcome the obstacles you face. Even if you think you’ve been inconsistent up to this point with your child, it’s never too late to change. Let’s take a look at why it’s important and how you can start being more consistent right away.


Why Consistency is Important

No one can be 100% consistent 100% of the time, but what happens when you’re frequently inconsistent? You’ll find that your child’s behavior will get worse—and you’ll be more tired and worn down as a result.

Why is consistency important for kids? Children need to know what to expect because it helps them make informed decisions. As they grow, they learn that certain behaviors lead to certain outcomes. Children need boundaries to understand what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Inconsistency doesn’t set boundaries…it creates wiggle room. And wiggle room leads to potential bad behavior.

To make matters worse, there’s a good chance you’ll be seen as less of an authority when you’re not consistent. This is because you might say one thing, like “Don’t swear,” but fail to consistently back that up with actions that show you mean it, such as providing a meaningful and effective consequence each and every time. When your child gets the message that you don’t mean what you say, what you say starts to lose meaning.


Why Staying in Control is Important

The key to staying in control when your child is having a meltdown is to try to keep your composure even when your blood is reaching a boiling point. You have to control your emotions. Violence only breeds violence and what your child sees and feels may spur the same kind of actions towards others.


Why Moving from Punishment to Love is Important

There is an excellent parenting book by Alfie Kohn called Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. One basic need all children have, Kohn argues, is to be loved unconditionally, to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments (including “time-outs”), rewards (including positive reinforcement), and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. Show your child that you still love them, although you may be disciplining their actions. After their punishment, return to being the open and loving parent that you are.

Lastly, BREATHE! Remind yourself that you are doing the most challenging thing in the world – you are raising a human being. Laugh and have fun! Don’t take things too seriously.