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Direct Discipline


If there's one thing parents need to know, it's this: children want limits. They hunger for them. They know they're good for them. They want parents to save them from their most extreme impulses. Of course they want love most of all, but they also want firm limit-setting and nonviolent discipline. It's the best way to help them transition into adult life when they will need to be self-disciplined. Tips:


n       Speak in simple, declarative statements of what you want them to do. Too many parents ask their children to do things. It's smarter to tell them. Disobedience is not an option.

n       Use positive, action words when you give these instructions. Negative terminology and body language are communication "stoppers." Instead of "Quit stalling!" say "Go to your room and start your homework."

n       Small rewards for doing what's right are much more powerful than big punishments for doing what's wrong.

n       Punishment is best as short work details - household tasks, meaningful service - rather than hitting, screaming or giving a timeout.

n       The severity of the punishment is nowhere near as important as the consistent parental follow-through. Don't let them get away with things!

n       Physical punishment - spankings - may obtain temporary compliance, but not long-term behavior correction. You might even create a defiant, angry child.

n       That's not to say spanking is never right. On occasion, it is. But test yourself: have you had to spank your child maybe once or twice in his or her life? If so, then that's a bad reflection on your parenting communication skills, not on the child's disobedience.

n       Remember, you want communication in your family to center on words. Keep the focus on the meaning of the words you use by refraining from yelling, angry facial expressions, or the "silent treatment" as punishment.

n       It is NOT micromanaging to ask your teens ALL the time where they are going, who with, what they will be doing, and when they will be home. Make an occasional phone call to check up on them. If they violate your trust, ground them and give them a work detail until they can earn the privilege to go out again.


The best thing about direct discipline is that you don't have to play the "heavy" more than once or twice. As long as you stay firm and consistent, your child will get the message - and learn from you that discipline is reality, and self-discipline is really cool.



By Susan Darst Williams Heart Lessons 013 2006


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