Parenting,  Stories

Child Discipline Done Right

New year, new start. Time to kick old habits, time to learn from mistakes, and time to grow in maturity. It’s hard enough to do all these yourself; but what if it is our kids who need some self-improvement? Most of the time, we find it hard to draw that line between being forgiving and affectionate, and giving our kids tough love to correct their bad behavior. We asked Stef Patag, a U.S. based homeschooling expert, how to approach this dilemma.
We all know that at the beginning – and end – of loving correction is the principle behind why we parents do it. Stef shares twenty-six years’ worth of parenting wisdom on disciplining and correcting behavior. Some of her insights:
• Teaching accountability starts when they are young. “My kids have to know why a behavior is wrong and what they can do to correct it. It is simply not enough for them to know what is good and bad,” said the mother of five. She also noted how there are indeed phases in a child’s life when the naughty overshadows the nice. This is precisely when parents cannot waver in teaching them good. “They have to know that this behavior is bad and unacceptable, but they also have to realize for themselves how to correct it and make up for the bad that was done.”
According to the homeschooler mom, at an appropriate age, children should realize that their actions have consequences. “I want them to understand how what they do impacts not only themselves but others. That actions ripple.”
• Spare the rod – as much as possible. We all know the famous, or infamous, saying: spare the rod, spoil the child. Does Stef believe in hitting children as a form of punishment, or as a legitimate way of instilling discipline? “No. Unless it’s a particularly recalcitrant child who won’t listen to reason, a light swat might work, but even then I believe that this should be done very, very sparingly. If you ask me, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve hit each of my children, more or less. So the easy answer to that is basically no.” Stef believes hitting a child, especially when done out of anger is sending the wrong message. ”I’m quite sure I’m sending the message, ‘It’s okay for me to hit you because I’m bigger and older, but it’s not okay for you to hit.’ Then your credibility as a parent flies out of the window.”
For her, fear as a foundation of good behavior is hardly the best. “I don’t want my kids to obey me because they are afraid of physical punishment. While that may work for some children, I would rather they understand what is wrong and right, intellectually and then behaviorally, forming good habits.”
• Listen, listen, eye contact! I then asked Stef how she manages being a mom to several children, particularly on how she trains her children to listen to her. “Part of being a hands-on mom is to really have conversations with them from the start. And you know how children’s conversations are. From our perspective, the whole thing is ‘childish’, but it’s my way of quietly telling them that I respect them by listening to them no matter how mundane the conversation is.” Stef also set some “rules” early on like making eye contact when she talks with her kids. “…I ask them to look into my eyes when I’m talking to them so they know we’re truly communicating, fully focused and present to each other. I want to reach their heart. And so far, it has worked,” she said.
• Be intentional about defining right and wrong. Why does Stef think that it is necessary to tell children what they have done wrong? “Children are not born knowing what’s right from wrong. I’m not that kind of parent to just leave right and wrong to what they think is right and wrong. It’s part of our role as primary educators of our children to train them in differentiating right and wrong, from good and evil.”
• Praise good behavior. Instead of playing the role of a police figure who points out your child’s every mistake, start praising them when they do good too. “I try not to pile on ‘here are all the things you did wrong’. A good principle is to catch your child doing something good, instead of always catching them when they’re doing wrong,” Stef said. She does her best to notice good behavior, “to make lots of deposits through the day” so that if she needs to correct her child, it won’t be such a letdown.
• Parents, reinforce each other! Stef can’t seem to stress enough how discipline is a job for two, not just one parent. “I don’t deal with all these alone… I there’s a tough issue, hubby and I talk it out so we can get on the same page. We reinforce each other. Especially boys, there comes an age where they’ll push mom’s buttons and test mom’s limits, part of their growing up, and at that point dad takes on a bigger role in disciplining them. Because he can talk with them man to man.”
You guessed it, forming good habits, choosing to do the right thing, is a foundation that children build on as they grow older. Starting them young on choosing the good will prepare them for harder decisions, tougher choices ahead.

Anthony James Perez

AJ is a pro-life and chastity advocate, and the creator of the Gentleman's Bootcamp program, a program that aims to transform boys into chaste and chivalrous gentlemen.

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