Tying Your Parenting Tools to Your Discipline Mindset

Since discipline is more about a mindset and delivery style than about specific tools, it makes sense to have a easy way to analyze your parenting strategiesand see if they are helping you align with your parenting goals.

Below I have outlined my "FREE" tool analysis model along with examples of how you might apply it to common parenting tools. When a tool does not fit this model, I encourage parents to use their creativity to figure out how their tool might be adapted before discarding it all together.

F: Is my tool functional? Does the correction I am using with my child help him to link the consequence with the “problem” behaviour. If he cannot see the link,he will likely be learning how to be resentful rather than resourceful. Natural consequences are always linked (hence their name) which is why they are so useful. Unfortunately we can’t always allow nature to deal with our child’s mistake.

Logical consequence: family has a rule that the child may not go on the dock without an adult present unless he has a life jacket on. Child is found on dock without an adult or life jacket – he is made to return to the cabin for 10 minutes.

Non-functional: Child is found on the dock without an adult or life jacket – his movies (which he loves) are removed for two days. If you can’t link it – don’t think it!

R: Is my tool and delivery model respectful? Remembering that discipline is all about modeling the behaviours we want to see from our kids, it makes sense thatwhen we are correcting our child we will try very hard to be respectful. Making anerror doesn’t make anyone a bad person and we want to ensure our messagerelays that.

Privilege removal: child throws a toy at his cousin, parent walks over, takes the toy and says firmly, but without judgment , “We don’t throw things at other people, this toy will stay with me for the rest of today.”

Non-respectful: Parent yells across the room, “That was not nice! We don’t throw things at people…I’m taking this toy and you’ll be lucky if you ever see it again!” Often this kind of response comes from our embarrassment that our child would do something hurtful like that – the pressure to give an intensive correction stopsus from modeling what we are really hoping to teach.

E: Is my tool effective? Ultimately we want our children to learn from theirmistakes so that they do not continue to repeat them. When we correct a behaviour and our child repeats it again soon after, that tool is not being effective. Sometimes this simply means it must be enforced more than once, other times it’s telling us to use a different tool. If we continue to use the same tool when it isn’t effective, we will get frustrated and have trouble modeling the behaviours we are trying to teach.

Time-out: Child is asked to stop being rough and play nicely with his playmate.Within moments he escalates from taking toys to shoving the other child away. Parent walks calmly over and tells the child firmly “You can’t seem to play nicely right now. You need to sit over here for 2 minutes and then you can try to play nicely again.” Child sits quietly at the side for 2 minutes and then returns and plays nicely.

Ineffective: If the child returns to the situation and within minutes returns to the same (or similar) behaviour, the tool would be in question. The parent could try using it again, increase it’s intensity by moving the time-out to a room separated from the action or use a different tool altogether.

E: Is my tool Easy? Parenting is far too difficult for us to add more onto our plate because of our discipline strategies. If you are finding you must do more work than your child to ensure he is learning – he’s not! Make your strategies as easyas possible for you to enforce so you can be consistent and provide learning at the same time.

Pre-arranged reminders: Child is reminded of appropriate restaurant behaviour before going out for supper (best if this is practiced a couple times at home as well). He is told that if he seems to be having trouble controlling his behaviour in the restaurant he will be given a simple reminder – Restaurant Behaviour. If he doesn’t change his behaviour immediately a bigger consequence will be put in place (time-out in the washroom or car; leave restaurant…). Child begins to act goofy in the restaurant, parent quickly and firmly reminds him “Restaurant Behaviour”.

Not easy: Child misbehaves in restaurant – is told to stop it, right now! He doesn’t listen so parent grounds him for the week. Grounding is so easy to deal out and so difficult to enforce. It puts strain on the parent in charge, interferes with family commitments and often goes way longer than necessary. Giving a big consequence for a little misbehaviour is never FREE.

Debbie Pokornik is the Chief Empowerment Officer of Empowering NRG. She is the author of the award winning Break Free of Parenting Pressures and believes all parents can use support at some point in their parenting experience. For more info about Debbie go to:

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