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Updated: May 25, 2020

Fundamental Rules for Discipline


Understand exactly what you are supposed to do. Do not tackle a problem until you really grasp the how and why of the advice.

Inform the child, explaining clearly what you intend to do about the problem in question. Answer all of his/her questions.

Act. Silence is necessary during the disciplining. Warnings, reminders, discussions and threats about the problem are unwise.

Be consistent during the disciplining. Avoid variations and exceptions. Do not let others sway you (Spouse excepted – discussion is advised). Do not feel sorry for the child: pity will not help train him/her.

Do not discipline when you are angry or out of control. Wait to cool down and think clearly about the situation.

Base your discipline on realistic expectations for the infraction and for the specific age of your child.

Remember that discipline is a tool that enables your child to learn from the situation. Build in ways to discuss, evaluate and learn.

Remember to discipline with love.

Useful Concepts to Help in Discipline

Active Listening – Listening for the feeling behind the words. Always “Check out your assumptions”.

I messages – Talking about how I feel instead of how I know you are. This is communication that is much easier to listen to and be understood non-defensively.

Problem Definition and Resolution – A necessary skill that everyone needs to learn. Children will learn this from parents modeling.

Natural and Logical Consequences – Allowing a child to learn by experience that his/her actions have consequences and cause reactions in other people. Parents determine logical consequences. Natural consequences happen as a result of our behavior. i.e.: If you forget your lunch every day Mom or Dad may not bring you your lunch and you may be hungry.

Family Council – A meeting together regularly (weekly is best) in order to air grievances and find solutions.

Basic Communication Tools

Problem Ownership – The one who is uncomfortable with the problem is the one who needs to ask for change. The one who owns the problem is the only one who is truly motivated to solve the problem, and the only one who really has the power to initiate the problem – solving process.

I-Messages – What I use to tell you about my experience of the world, about how I feel. A You-Message often feels like an accusation or a label, and causes defensiveness, An I-Message is very hard to argue with. Examples- “You are a slob! Pick up this room now!” vs. “I get upset when the room is messy. I need my living space healthy and picked up. I need you to keep your area picked up.”

When I see (behavior) I feel (your reaction) Because (your belief) I would like (specific request to change)

Active Listening – What I use to hear about your experience of the world, about how you feel. Through active listening I listen for the feelings behind your words, and check out with you at each step to make sure I am translating accurately. I listen without judgment, because feelings are neither right nor wrong.

Handling Criticism – Fogging Technique. Learning to hear the grain of truth behind the criticism, and learning to say “You may be right about that”, so that I can hear information without getting caught up in feeling judged.

  • Corsini & Painter, The Practical Parent, 1975

  • Dobson, James, The Strong Willed Child, 1988

  • Farber & Mazlish, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, 1988

  • Gordon, Thomas, Parent Effectiveness Training, 1970

  • Gordon, Thomas, Discipline That Works, 1991

  • Nelsen, Jane, Positive Discipline, 1996

  • Nelsen, Jane, Positive Discipline A-Z, 1993

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