One Big Key to Effective Discipline—and How to Use It

Correcting and disciplining children will always be challenging for fathers. In today’s busy times and with so many outside forces competing for our children’s attention and allegiance, training our kids has never been more important.

In the moment, we want them to obey us, stop fighting with each other, and/or avoid destroying property. But we know discipline has a bigger purpose: we want our children to end up as responsible, caring adults who are prepared to thrive in the world.

Here at the Center, we have some helpful articles on discipline, and you’d be wise to do some research and figure out what works best for you and your family.

That really is the most critical action point when it comes to discipline: have a plan.

Your children’s future (and their children’s future) is at stake. You can’t afford to father by the seat of your pants … so to speak.

Why is a plan so important? Because it sets clear boundaries and expectations for your children: “When you do this, this is the consequence.” And as a father, when your plan is fully developed, few situations will catch you (or your child) by surprise. You won’t find yourself negotiating with your child or trying to think of appropriate consequences; the plan is in place. Furthermore, you can relate to your child with empathy instead of anger, since the plan is what is making his life difficult, not you.

What are some qualities of a good plan?

  • It is clearly communicated to the child before it is implemented, with explanations about how it applies to specific situations.
  • Then, of course, the plan has to be used. The child can’t be let out of the negative consequences. The parent calmly makes it clear that the child, by his actions, chose those consequences. (That’s a big part of learning responsibility.)
  • It is flexible and adaptable as needs and situations change.

Here are a few examples that might illustrate how this works:

A dad has a 15-year-old daughter who isn’t doing well in her school work and her behavior. The dad wants to help her learn to be responsible, so he takes away her cell phone. The daughter is furious and doesn’t speak to him for two weeks.

Taking a teenager’s cell phone for poor choices is an appropriate consequence. But having a plan in place beforehand may have helped this dad avoid a major rift in their relationship. Imagine how things could go differently:

Dad and Mom sit down with their daughter when she first gets her cell phone, and together they lay out a plan: Having a phone comes with conditions related to her behavior, her school work, and demonstrating responsibility in other ways. Maybe they even ask her, “What kind of behaviors will demonstrate that you’re responsible enough to have a cell phone?” They lay out the plan in specifics, and she agrees to it as a condition of having her own phone.

That’s the plan.

Then, when the daughter starts slipping, it won’t be a surprise when things get hard for her. Dad and Mom are just working the plan, and it isn’t very likely that she’ll be mad at them—at least not for very long. She’ll be more likely to see that she’s the one who made the poor choices and she needs to make changes going forward.

The steps apply to situations with toddlers, ten-year-olds and beyond. For example, after talking with your child’s mom, you might tell your child,

“We’re having trouble getting you out of bed and ready for school. So from now on, if you don’t make it down in time for breakfast, we’ll assume that means you don’t want to eat. And if you can’t get up and be ready in time to leave, that probably means you aren’t getting enough sleep. We’ll just move your bedtime to an hour earlier.”

The child will either get up earlier, or he’ll expect some changes in his daily routine.

Dad, there’s no better time than right now to sit down and start putting together your plan.

Which of these examples rings true for you? What are your best practices when it comes to discipline? Please share your thoughts either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Make your expectations of your children’s behavior very clear. Spell them out in minute detail, if necessary, so there’s no doubt.
  • Be eager to notice and point out your children’s strengths; celebrate their accomplishments; toast their successes.
  • How does discipline and correction look with teenagers? Read about the “Good Neighbor” approach.
  • Make every effort to be united with your children’s mother in your discipline approach. Don’t leave any room for your kids to bring in doubt or manipulate the situation.
  • Think of a new area of responsibility to give your child, even if it’s on a trial basis.

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There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.