Boundaries and Discipline
It is very important to create boundaries for our children. Boundaries give children a sense of safety as they feel contained. Children without boundaries will often push parents to set boundaries as they want to feel secure.
By setting boundaries, we are communicating to our children that we love and care for them and therefore we have expectations around their behaviour.
Boundaries do not break a child's self-esteem or their ability to be creative. Boundaries give them wings to grow, develop and fly within a safe, contained space created by their parents.
The Need To Discipline
Discipline is good for our children. It shows them that there are consequences to their behaviour. We are training our children to be fully functioning adults one day. If we don't teach them how to behave when they are children, then how will they know how to behave as adults.
There is a belief by some parents that discipline will break their children or affect the self-esteem of their children. This is not the case if it is carried out correctly. It will actually boost a child's self-esteem as they learn how to behave and they will feel loved as they are moulded and cared for by their parents.
Correct Ways To Discipline
1. Make sure boundaries are discussed so that children are clear when they have overstepped a boundary and discipline will take place
2. Do not discipline from a place of anger, but rather from a place of training. We are training our children to become responsible adults.
3. Identify with your child what they did wrong. Ensure that they understand what they are being disciplined for.
4. Disciple is a consequence for an undesired action eg: we agreed that that behaviour would result in no TV tonight. Make sure that the child realises that they made the choice for the discipline based on the decision they made to go against an agreed upon boundary. This way, you are not the bad guy, but they realise that their behaviour has consequences.
5. Acknowledge how your child feels. Talk through their feelings with them. Make sure that you remind your children that your love never changes for them but that you are proud of them as they learn to take responsibility for their actions and face the consequences.
6. Discipline NEVER involves humiliating a child, belittling a child, making a child feel unworthy or of no importance. That is not discipline. It won't grow your child, but instead it will break your child from the inside out until their is no self-esteem left.
How the Behaviour Contract Works
The behaviour contract is based on choices. If you choose to obey the rules, then you choose not to be disciplined. If you choose to break the rules, then you choose to be disciplined.
List five behaviours that cause the most conflict in your home. (These behaviours will be different for different children). Behaviours can include things like disrespect, not listening to me when I talk, not completing homework, not getting into the bath. Whatever creates conflict in your home.
These five rules now become non-negotiables. No matter how tired you are after work, anything else can be negotiated, but not these five rules.
Once you have decided on these rules, sit down with your child and chat them through. 'We seem to be fighting quite alot about these things, don't we? Let's see if we can work on them together to improve them.' Discuss with your child what the consequences/discipline will be if these rules are broken so that your child fully understands your expectations. Now you and your child need to sign it to confirm that you both understand it. (Your child is not signing it because they agree with it otherwise you will never get your child to sign it!)
Once it has been signed, place it somewhere obvious like on your fridge, on a noticeboard at home so that it can be referred to easily. If your child breaks a rule, there is no need for yelling and screaming. Firmly point out to your child which rule they broke and the consequence that will follow.
When you notice that their is a sixth issue that you are starting to fight about, don't add a sixth rule. Sit down with your child. Talk with them about the new area of conflict. Show them the contract and point at a rule where you feel their has been inmprovement. Let them know that there has hardly been any conflict around that rule since they have started working on it and how proud you are of them for creating the change. Give them credit where it is due. Then let them know that although the rule still remains, you are going to remove it from the contract and add the 'sixth' rule in its place, because if they were able to solve the issues around the previous rule, you are pretty sure they can do the same for this one.
Children begin to feel the importance of their decisions and they are able to see how their choices create conflict or calm within their homes. This empowers them to feel that they can make changes and motivates them to improve their behaviour.