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Principles for Parental Discipline

A parent of one our students is trying to deal with some issues with her high schooler. We’re going to talk through some ideas so I’ve been brainstorming on the topic. Here are some principles I’ve come up with. Maybe they’ll be helpful for others.

Discipline shouldn’t be:
– A tool for venting anger
– A reason to ground kids from church (This has been a problem which takes away a source of spiritual growth)

Discipline should be:
– A way to redirect a wayward kid toward a desired goal
– Seen as an opportunity for growth rather than a chance to get retribution

Here’s an example of discipline thoughtfully designed to reach restorative goals:

Wayward action: Goal: Discipline:
Lying about where she’s going and who she’s going with 1. Remove the opportunity
2. Restore trust
3. Help her develop integrity
1. Temporarily restrict her from going places with friends unless you drive her. Since a parent probably won’t be available to drive her everywhere, she might have to miss some opportunities. It’s also a good idea to run some errands on the way to drop her off somewhere. That will give more time together, help her realize there’s more to the world than her priorities and inconvenience her enough that she’ll long for her freedom again
2. Assign tasks she can do without parental supervision. As she begins to show credibility, parents can gradually trust her more
3. Recognize and affirm. A great indicator of whether a person will reach a goal is the environment surrounding the event. Any sign of progress toward integrity should be applauded. Affirm her at the time you notice it and publicly in her presence through casual conversation.

This type of discipline does not happen on the fly in the moment of anger. Ideally, parents will think through healthy ways to reach goals before their kids need correction. Doing this will help parenting become much easier. Prepared parents armed with well-thought-out courses of action are much more likely to achieve healthy results through less contentious encounters.

Guiding kids is much easier and more effective when a plan is already in place. When parents discipline on the spot without a plan, it’s often too much or unrealistic. Having to backtrack on discipline when tempers cool and reality sets in hinders a parent’s ability to be effective more each time that happens. Eventually parents give up and their kids lose out… and go wild.