Discipline effectively

There is, like many other things in life, no ‘one-size-fits-all’ discipline strategy. Every child is unique, every family’s dynamics are different and parents’ views are not all the same, all of which will determine the discipline style that will work effectively for a family.

Although there are different discipline styles and –strategies, there are a few things – whatever the discipline style – which should be applied to ensure that discipline works effectively.

Mind your behaviour. What example do you set your children? If your behaviour is inappropriate, you can’t expect of your children to behave appropriately. When you discipline, be calm but firm when you talk to your children.

Discipline with love. When you discipline your child it is not an opportunity to intimidate or force authority onto a child. Discipline should be done with love to teach children to distinguish between what is right and wrong and that their behaviour will have consequences. When you discipline, discuss why it was necessary and that you love him/her.

Parents need to work as a team. There is no use in discipline when one parent is strict while another parent allows anything and everything. Parents need to decide together on a suitable discipline style which will work for the whole family and apply it consistently. Do not allow other family members or friends to interfere with your discipline.

Communication. Communication between parents is extremely important. House rules and discipline styles need to be discussed regularly. When one parent doesn’t agree on the other parent’s action, discuss it in privacy. It makes a child feel uneasy when parents fight in their presence. Apart from that, the focus is not on the child’s wrongdoing any more. It is also confusing for a child when parents have different expectations from them.

Communication between parents and children is also important. Discuss your child’s behaviour with him/her. Listen to how he/she might feel about a specific situation. There might be reason your child behaved in a certain way.

Set clear boundaries. Children need to know what is expected of them. Set basic house rules – try to keep the list short and simple. Explain to your children what the consequences will be when they don’t obey the rules.

Choose an appropriate discipline-style. Every family is different. Consider different styles and choose one that will work for you. Sometimes one style works well for a while, but then there comes a time when you need to try something new – keeping your child’s personality and age in mind.

Age-appropriate discipline. Make sure that your expectations and rules are reasonable and that your child can understand what is expected from him/her. Make sure that the discipline style you use is age appropriate.

Warn twice and act then. Children need to be warned that their behaviour is not acceptable, but should they continue with the behaviour, you need to act on it.

Be consistent. Children know when they can take chances, like when you are tired, and don’t react on their behaviour. Children need structure and routine to flourish. They need to know that your ‘no’ really means ‘no’.

Choose your battles. We can’t raise children in boxes. Decide if what you are scolding them about is really worth is. If your son doesn’t want to wear shoes to the park, is it really necessary to make a fuss about it? E.g. if he steps in thorns, he will wear shoes next time you go to the park.

Use constructive words. When your child misbehaves, it doesn’t make your child a bad child. Don’t insult or belittle your child. Focus on the behaviour and explain why his/her behaviour wasn’t acceptable. Help your children with alternatives to express anger or frustration or how to handle certain situations positively.


When setting house rules, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep your child/ren’s age in mind – what are current important issues or what challenges you experience now – that can be captured in the house rules.
  • If you can’t agree on the rules, make a list of pro’s and con’s of each rule and determine accordingly the importance of the rules.
  • Decide on a fair consequence should the rule be broken (keep in mind the discipline style the pre-school uses if you have a toddler at home – it is easier for children when one style is used – if the style is working effectively.)
  • If your children are old enough, involve them in the process. Have a family meeting and discuss the rules and consequences with them and why each rule is important.

If discipline is still a struggle, ask advice from an expert.


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