In my last post, we talked about punishing. Now, instead of punishing, let’s look at what it might be like to teach
self-discipline instead. Let’s say your child has a habit of not
abiding by his or her curfew. The child agrees to the curfew and then
chronically comes home late espousing sincere apologies. Naturally, you
want to ground him or her or make make your child come home even earlier the next time
to make up for the infraction.
What do you think would
happen if you had a different conversation? What would happen if you
attempted to learn what the child was doing that prevented him or her from
being home on time? What would happen if you believed your child when
he said he really lost track of time because he got so involved in the
game of basketball he was playing with his friend? Your child tells you
he meant to be home on time but simply lost track of time.
If your goal is to help teach self-discipline, wouldn’t it make sense
to help your child find a way to independently remind himself of his
curfew. Perhaps he could get a watch with an alarm on it. Or if he has
a cell phone, have him set the alarm on it with enough time for him to
get home at the agreed upon time.
Maybe in your conversation, you learn that your child no longer
believes his curfew is appropriate. Perhaps he thinks because he is
older, he should be permitted to stay out later. You may review your
expectations and realize that he is right. The curfew you have set may
be too early for his age. In this case, you might be willing to adjust
the curfew to a later time as long as there is compliance with the new
There are several solutions for every situation and remember every
child and every set of circumstances is unique. Take the time to talk
to your child to determine why they are breaking the rules and then
help them figure out a way to honor the rules and still get what they
need in their lives.
When you do, you will have a much more harmonious home and your
children will be learning self-discipline skills so that by the time
they no longer live with you, you can be reasonably assured that they
will be able to take care of themselves. After all, isn’t that what you
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