Is your child well-behaved but lacks discipline? Here are some tips on how to raise a well-disciplined child.
In this article, you’ll read:
- What does it mean to be a disciplined child?
- Tips on raising a child who has willpower and strength of character
I was once at a restaurant where a mom whose toddler was throwing a tantrum calmly spoke to him until the child calmed down.
Explaining to him why he absolutely could not have more ice cream because it would hurt his tummy later in the day helped diffuse the tantrum and reassure the child of her love.
To me, this was a shining example of how parents can effectively discipline their child, or at least get them to listen to reason, with love, patience, and care.
Psychologist and author Lisa Firestone echoes this same idea in an article on Psychology Today. When it comes to discipline, the first step is for parents to get a handle on their own emotions.
When it comes to discipline styles, moms and dads write the rules.
But there will be times when they feel that they could be revising these rules to be more effective, particularly when their child’s emotional needs deepen as they grow up.
What is a disciplined child?
One of the toughest parts of being a parent is trying to discipline a child. It would be a lot easier if our kids would just not have meltdowns and listen to every word we say.
But when you think about it, what does it really mean to raise a disciplined child? Do you expect your child to always be in a chipper mood, never feeling sad, not allowed to defy you or question what you have to say? Is being well-behaved equal to being disciplined as a person?
According to Collins Dictionary, if you describe someone, especially a child, as well-behaved, you mean that they behave in a way that adults generally like and think is correct. Meanwhile, Cambridge dictionary defines being disciplined as being able to carefully control the way that you work, live, or behave, especially to achieve a goal,
As parents, if we were to choose between the two, we would prefer our child to be the latter – someone who doesn’t need us to tell him what’s right or wrong and how to act, but a person who has the innate ability to decide what is best for him and others, and knows how to control his impulses to reach his goals.
Self-discipline and willpower is a huge factor in achieving success. That being said, here are some tips that can help you bring up your little one to have strength of character.
Raise a disciplined child: 7 rules for parents
1. Remain calm at all times
When it comes to instilling discipline in your child, the first thing you should do is to teach your child how to regulate or control his emotions. And the best way to do that is to get a handle on yours.
First, relax, take a deep breath and try to be soft and steady with your speech. To a child, nothing is scarier than being yelled at by their parent.
You cannot communicate properly when you’re upset because children will not remember what you said, but more of how they felt to see you lash out.
2. Think about your desired effect
Remember, the word “discipline” came from the Latin word “disciplina,” which means meaning “instruction and training.” It is derived from the root word discere—”to learn.”
What do you want your child to learn? What is the best way to discipline them without venting your frustrations, while still reassuring them of your love?
Kids listen and express themselves best when they feel they are secure and cared for. Once they feel that they are not being blamed, they will be more open to the lessons you wish to teach them.
For instance, don’t simply tell them that their behavior upsets you, but tell them in a rational manner how certain kinds of behavior, like refusing to do homework or not wanting to share toys, will give them a difficult time in the long run.
3. Truly connect with your child
Effective discipline doesn’t just mean keeping your own emotions at bay, it means helping your child calm down as well. You know your child best. Will hugging them or speaking to them eye-to-eye help?
Kids benefit when parents talk to them about their feelings, show empathy, and discuss constructive ways to cope. Connection matters most when teaching a child. And your connection is also important to teach him about discipline.
Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and editor of AHA Parenting believes that there’s nothing a child wants more than to stay connected to his parents.
“That’s how your child internalizes your rules and values. It begins with the connection — he WANTS to please you, as long as he doesn’t have to give up his own integrity to do it.
Over time, he begins to think of himself as the kind of person who brushes his teeth, does his homework, tells the truth, and lends a helping hand. The kind of person who can apply himself with discipline to achieve his goals. That makes for a confident, happy, cooperative child,” she said.
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4. Set limits and be consistent with them.
When your child regulates her emotions and shifts gears from what she wants to do to follow your lead or listen to your advice, she is building self-control muscles. That is why as much as we want to please them all the time, they can’t be “the boss.” We need to set some rules and be firm in implementing them.
“Permissive parenting doesn’t help kids develop self-discipline because it doesn’t ask them to exercise self control in pursuit of their larger goal,” said Dr. Markham.
The more we let our child practice this skill, their neural pathways get stronger with use. That means the more they retain the action and the more they learn about discipline.
5. Nurture empathy
However, despite being firm with our rules and expectations, we still need to set them with empathy, so our child knows that we are always on their side.
Parenting and character expert Dr. Michele Borba told theAsianparent in an interview that “kids are hardwired for goodness.” Nurturing empathy is so important for parents to remember because this is where most, if not all, desirable values arise from, like respect, compassion, honesty, and kindness.
6. Refrain from harsh punishment
Isolating them or punishing them physically has been proven by many parents as simply counterproductive. There are ways to be firm without being harsh.
Though “time outs” have been known to work in the past, it can deprive your child of the opportunity to learn through communication when things get confusing.
Allowing them the ability to interact can build resilience and develop healthy ways for them to regulate their emotions.
7. Empower your child with choices
You cannot expect your child to have discipline if she would always defer to what you say and if you always expect her only to do as she’s told.
To practice decision-making and willpower, you must allow your child to make her own choices.
“If you can give your child agency to make a choice, he will be more likely to cooperate. No one likes feeling “done to,” especially children who already feel so controlled a lot of the time.
Give choices that you can deal with and then let your child know that you trust him to follow through on that choice,” said Dr. Becky Kennedy, a clinical psychologist and parenting coach from Columbia University.
8. Behave the way you want them to
Modeling good behavior, or giving them concrete examples of how to behave well, works better than simply telling them NOT to do certain things.
Don’t over parent or spoil them because it can lead to a sense of entitlement that can hinder them from growing up to be well-rounded adults.
Celebrate their positive qualities and be consistently supportive and loving. Make sure they know that just because they exhibited bad behavior, it does not make them a “bad” child.
Parents, remember, it’s not all about being well-behaved or doing as they’re told. To raise a disciplined child, we need to set and enforce rules, but show empathy and most importantly, continue to strengthen and nurture our relationship with them.