8 Ways to Be Clear in Discipline: How to Say What You Mean

Communication is very tricky when dealing with child discipline issues.  It is easy to assume that parents are being clear in their communication when, in actuality, children struggle to understand what parents are saying and meaning.

8 ways to communicate discipline clearly to your child

Good communication encourages effective discipline
Good communication encourages effective discipline

How can discipline be effective if our children fail to grasp what parents are trying to communicate? So, it is important to help children understand what we are attempting to convey in order to help them to have clarity of our expectations.

  1. Inform the child. We need to be specific and factual about the behavior.  Describe unacceptable behaviors, details about when, where and how it occurred, why it is unacceptable. Communicate what needs to stop, start or change. Avoid judgements, criticisms, discounts, generalizations, threat and labels
  2. Be direct. Describe exactly what needs to happen in order to correct the situation, ie.  “You must return all the money you took. If you have spent any of it you will have to take it out of  your allowance until you pay it all back.”
  3. Follow your instructions with actions: demonstrate, model, explain          consequences, show them by example exactly what to do.
  4. Ask the child for feedback. Expect and accept protests. Allow them to express their feelings and suggestions in how to rebuild trust.
  5. If something is not open for negotiations, do not act as if it is.
  6. Be respectful. Do not use sarcasm. You do not have to be mean or strict to be clear.
  7. Be flexible. Be willing to re-evaluate a decision from a position of strength.  Flexibility and openness are a part of being an effective disciplinarian who can reevaluate your stance on an issue.
  8. Know that it is okay to show your feelings and needs from a position of strength.  You can describe how you felt when you first realized they had violated a rule or done something inappropriate.

Remember these are ideas that you can use for the purpose of making sure you are clear about what you are expressing as a parent or caregiver. The clearer you are the more likely it will be that your discipline will be effective.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Information taken from the IFP Effective Discipline Curriculum written by Diane Wagenhals.  2014, pp. 114-115.

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