Of course, establishing proper discipline is easier said than done. In fact, the most common question asked by parents is “HOW DO I GET MY KIDS TO LISTEN?!” However, there is no “one quick-fix solution,” because so many puzzle pieces must fall into place in order for a home’s harmony to resonate. Presuming that the initial foundations of peace, unconditional love, acceptance and communication are in place, we will now explore several discipline techniques which will help us restore respect and discipline in the household.
Before we start with practical pointers, we must have a proper perspective on commanding respect. We must realize that this is not about us; it’s about them. It’s not that we need the honor of having our children speak respectfully at the dinner table. Rather, our children need this training because we want to mold the child into the perfect person we want him to become. So giving in and forgoing this respect is not a service, but rather a disservice, to the child, for we are denying him the opportunity to grow and develop properly.
One component of respect is listening to one’s parents. Therefore, we are obligated to insist on compliance.
Practically speaking, this training is best started when children are young and impressionable. It is then that you can physically “help them” to listen by taking their hand and directing them to do the required action or go to where they have to be.
When giving commands, use a firm, self-assured voice. Even young children detect when you are hesitant or unconfident. Avoid threats, warnings, and ultimatums as they undermine your authority. You can use the “broken record technique” (repeat your command in a calm, firm manner over and over until the child complies) or “when-then technique,” (When you clean up your room, you can go outside to play” instead of “if” which gives wiggling room for non-compliance.) If your child needs to have some power, give him choices and time frames, (“Please make sure the table is cleared before dinner” instead of “DO IT NOW!!!”) Whichever method you may choose to use, do not accept “no” for an answer. This is imperative, because early training sets the stage for respect for all authority throughout life.
Once children are a little older, it is the parent’s choice to be smart and selective when giving commands, demanding only that which the child is capable of fulfilling. For example, asking for something while a child is in middle of playing, or in a tired, cranky mood is setting him up for failure. Think before commanding and do not teach your child disobedience!
Try to set up routines, so that you can preempt tricky situation. When a child knows what is expected of him and is aware of the consequences if the routine is not followed, he is quicker to comply and accepts the consequence.
When you are in a situation over which you have no influence, do not exert your power, because you are embarking on a losing battle. At best, you will win while compromising your values by yelling, threatening, punishing, etc.
Remember that you too can press the pause button. Model proper behavior by thinking before you act. Use impulse control and ask yourself, “Is this the proper request at the proper time? Am I realistic that I can influence this situation? What is the best way to ask my child and set him up for success?”
In summary, start when your children are young by confidently training them to listen. As your children grow older, continue to guide them with firmness and love. Think before commanding and set up routines to avoid confrontation. Most importantly, spend time planning smart solutions at calm times, so you will know how to handle the real-life scenarios.