So often, fathers find themselves in a disciplinary role with children. Our main goal should be to help children change their behavior for the better—to follow family rules, to keep their commitments and to learn personal responsibility. But at times, we have all seen fathers discipline their children in inappropriate or less effective ways.
These ten mistakes that we fathers at times make when involved in child discipline usually end up with results we don't intend and actually create barriers to our children's future good behavior. Watch out for these mistakes in your own parenting and discover ways to overcome these ineffective tools.
Losing Your temper. While the behavior of our children may at times make us crazy, we must never discipline when angry. Raising your voice, swearing or getting out of control tends to teach the child that yelling, anger and violence are acceptable in their relationships with friends and family. Instead, when you feel the anger boiling up, take a few seconds or minutes of "time-out" and regroup. Children respond best to a calm, reasonable approach that is direct and precise.
Physical punishment. Spanking, jerking a child by his arm, or hitting in any way, while often common during our growing up years, is simply ineffective. It teaches a child that the way to deal with conflict is to use physical force. Again, time out is a good idea to avoid physical discipline. Learning alternative child discipline skills can also help you break the tendency to lash out physically. Remember, your principal role is a teacher, not an enforcer.
Inconsistency. I see so many fathers discipline their children in an inconsistent manner. The same behavioral offense will have different responses at different times. A well-established and understood set of rules and standards with defined consequences tend to work the best. If one time your child uses a swear word you just laugh, and the next time (perhaps in different company) you impose a grounding or other choice, the child will become confused and not know what is expected. Being consistent in child discipline is the best way to teach them what is or is not acceptable behavior.
Bribery. Trying to bribe a child to behave in a certain way by promising a reward only teaches a child that they get a prize if they act inappropriately first, and then change their behavior. We want them to act appropriately the first time. A good child discipline alternative is to remind them how good it feels to make right choices or to simply give the predetermined positive consequence for positive behavior.
Unconnected consequences. I have always thought that children responded best when the consequences of their behavior seemed to naturally flow. For example, staying out past curfew should have a consequence like coming in earlier the following weekend. If they prove that they cannot be trusted to live with a curfew, then they have to rebuild that trust over time. We had a son that had a hard time for a while containing his anger and would punch a hole in a door or wall. Needing to pay for and install the repair of the damaged items himself (and out of his pocket) seemed to me to be a logical consequence. When the consequence does not fit the "crime," then the lessons are not learned. So avoid giving unrelated consequence (like a grounding for having an overdue library book) and try to find natural consequences.