Karen’s Parenting Mini-Course Part 6 – Discipline

I’m Karen. Welcome to my Parenting Mini-Course. This Simple Solution is to Discipline and let your children know you’re in charge.

Discipline can so hard to get right.
Some parents think they’re too soft.
Others think they’re too tough.
Lots worry that they’re both!
And even more end up feeling guilty.

It’s important that we’re in charge. We feel better and our children are more secure when we’re in control. It isn’t good for them if we let them get away with murder because holding the power in a family is too much responsibility for children. They might have a say, but the final burden of responsibility and decision-making needs to lie with us.

I know Discipline is important, but how do I get the balance right?
The good news is we don’t need to be a martyr and give in, an ogre and overreact, or resort to pleading, nagging or bribing. There are plenty of guilt-free wonderful ways to get our children to do what they need to. I’ll tell you some that really work. And if you search under ‘Discipline’ on my website, you’ll find even more.

The very best way to get our children to do what we say is to decrease as much ambiguity as possible.

Sounds simple, but what’s the best way to be clear?
A good way to do this is to tell them in advance what’s happening and what we expect them to do. Don’t just drop the bomb:

“We’re leaving for Grandma’s. Turn that TV off and get ready NOW!”

Tell them in advance:

“We’re going to Grandma’s tomorrow for lunch. So we’ll need to get dressed after breakfast.”

It works even better if we remind them again ahead of time.

Instead of barking orders when they don’t do what they’re told, it’s better if we try telling them clearly and calmly what they need to know.

“When wet towels are left on the floor they get smelly.”

It’s a lot more palatable for them, and they’re more likely to realise what they need to do and get on with it. But notice I didn’t say:

“When YOU leave wet towels on the floor they get smelly.”

That’s because that one word changes the sound of the whole sentence and so easily get their backs up. Then we’re much less likely to get the result we want with the attitude we want. So do yourself big a favour and don’t go there. But by all means DO go ahead and tell them how you feel about it.

“I don’t like it when wet towels are left on the floor.”

What about the things that really wind me up?
It helps if we make clear rules about things that really drive us nuts. When my children were little, ours included:
– “No hitting” and “No toys at the table”.
Now they’re older we’re onto:
– “No insults” and “No swearing at people”.
Yours might be:
– “No TV until homework is finished”.
Instead of getting angry, just state the rule. No discussion. It’s just the way we do things around here. If we need to set up a new rule, it works far better if we talk about it ahead of time so they know what to expect.

And when they still don’t do what I say?
Consequences that we come up with on the spot, out of the blue, are usually a disaster. If they aren’t the logical result of their behaviour, children are more likely to feel frustrated and hate us than take responsibility for what’s happened.

Whenever possible, consequences should make sense and relate to the issue, so children learn the natural outcomes of what they do. They should all know that if they hit someone, they get a time out; that’s because no one wants to be with them if they hit. If they don’t help us tidy the house, the next time they want something (which is likely to be very soon) we won’t feel like helping them.

Likewise, illogical rewards can lead to feelings of entitlement and manipulation. So instead of:

“If you get out of the bath now I’ll get you that doll you wanted.”


“If you get out of the bath now, we’ll have time for a story.”

Then we need to be consistent and stick to it, or they won’t believe us in future and we’ll lose our authority. So we need to be very careful what we say in the first place.

What about when Discipline simply doesn’t work?
Sometimes no matter how saintly we are with our Discipline, our children refuse to do what we say. Though this isn’t for the faint-hearted or those in a hurry, here’s how to get the job done:

  • Tell your child what needs to be done
  • Then get in their space and look straight at them until they get moving.
  • You may be there a while. No result?
  • Warn them what will happen if they don’t behave
  • And stay in their space again
  • Then follow through if necessary

It’s worth remembering that the point isn’t to aim for zero misbehaviour; it’s to try to do our best when it happens.

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