I realize that some parents don’t want to discipline. But they need to step up and realize that their child needs rules and boundaries and consequences to correct and strengthen their character. It’s not because the child needs justice for doing something wrong, but because they need patterns molded into their life that will determine how they will engage with people in the future. It can literally determine if they’ll be successful in life or not.
The focus of teen discipline should be aimed at critical character values like honesty, obedience, and respect. Honesty is a character issue that will help them in their relationships in the future. Obedience will help them gain direction and insight into life. Respect is the bedrock of all friendships and interpersonal relationships. You correct their lapses in these areas so that they will have the type of relationships that they really want…and to keep them from destroying or impeding relationships with their foolishness.
Remember this…discipline isn’t about you and it isn’t about getting back at your kid for messing up your day. It’s about helping them. Your child will continue in their selfish, immature behavior patterns until the pain they receive is greater than the pleasure they receive from it. They’ll continue in those negative things until someone holds them accountable. We are the ones, as parents, who must do that. It cannot be left to anyone else. We are the ones who need to say to our children, “You cannot do this.” We need to set the boundaries and establish the consequences. We need to make it clear that we’ll walk along side our teen in life, but we’ll move to stand in front of them when they start down the wrong path. Why? Because we know that if they go that direction, it will lead to their unhappiness.
Here are some things to remember about discipline.
- Rules without relationship cause rebellion. If one thinks that discipline is nothing more than a list of rules posted on the refrigerator that line out how everyone is supposed to act, they are greatly mistaken. It is important that time be spent with your child building a relationship, or the discipline will have no effect.
- Look to their interest, not your own. Don’t hand out a consequence just because your teen made you mad. Hand it out because, if they continue in the inappropriate behavior, the result will be something that is harmful to them, and will take them somewhere they really don’t want to go.
- Discipline means confrontation, even if you don’t like it. Confrontation is never easy, and is never really that enjoyable. To avoid confrontation is only postponing the inevitable to a time when things will be worse.
- Don’t be afraid of seeing your child go through the pain of consequences. Parents are, at times, too quick to rescue a child from their discomfort, thus keeping them from learning from their mistakes or choices. Your rescuing just might allow them to continue in their plight. There are many words for this: denial, enabling, equipping. Rescuing is usually done with the wrong motive, and invariably the wrong results.
- You can’t be consistent with everything, so pick your battles wisely. If I were determined to correct every issue that a child presents, I would spend all my time correcting, and very little time building any relationship at all. Your child is not going to be perfect this side of heaven, and there’s plenty of time to correct things along the way, so focus on ten things versus one hundred, and be consistent with just those ten. Remember, even God had just ten commandments.
- Discipline is training. Discipline is helping your child to get where they want to be and to keep them from a place they don’t want to end up. Practice discipline in your own parenting even as you discipline your child, and you’ll get them there.
- Teach What You Know to Be True. In your discipline, stick with what you know to be true and you know to be right. Think back to the basic principles your parents or grandparents taught you, and pass those forward. They are tried and true. Focus on rules and boundaries that build character. They’ll create a foundation for your child to base every decision they make in their life.
Periodically review the rules in your family. If you determine that some are simply unnecessary or too confining, don’t just stop enforcing it. Make it clear to your teen that you have both thought it through and the rule no longer applies, or they will think you are being inconsistent. And be sure to accentuate the positive — when your teen gets it right, congratulate and reward them.