From the day we are born, we have many needs. In order for us to become emotionally and psychologically healthy adults, these needs must be met. From a very early age, we need to feel that our parents love us, that they are giving us a secure attachment to them, that they pay attention to us, and that we are important in their lives. But, sometimes, children are not given the attention necessary for healthy emotional and physical growth and this has both short- and long-term consequences.
When our children feel the need to get our attention because they feel it is lacking, they go through four stages: trying to gain attention, power, revenge, and finally, showing inadequacy. Although stages three and four are worrying, the positive part is that most children are in stages one and two, so disciplining them can correct bad behaviors.
However, first consider what discipline is. Real discipline focuses on the bad behavior itself, not the children. The focus should be on presenting consequences for those behaviors.
Regarding this matter, Dr. Kevin Leman’s book “Why Your Kids Misbehave — and What to Do about It” talks about seven principles of real discipline that may be helpful.
These seven principles are:
Realize that your goal is to have healthy authority over your children
The authority you have over your children must be healthy, patient, and educational. I am not talking about selfish, vengeful, and controlling behavior. Our children are our mirrors, so good examples lead to good human beings. Try to let God guide you in times when your own negative feelings dominate you.
Hold your children accountable for their actions
Show your children that they are responsible for their actions and show them that you have respect for them. Never do something for your child that he/she can do for himself/herself. That homework he/she does not want to do is HIS/HER responsibility, not YOURS. That punishment or time out he/she earned in school for disrespecting a teacher is HIS/HER responsibility, not YOURS.
Be attentive to the teaching moments
Spontaneous teaching moments are always there and will change depending on the child’s age. If, for example, your child does not come down to eat when you ask him/her to do so, and he/she tries to do it one hour later, mention to him/her that lunchtime is over, and that he/she needs to wait a little longer until snack time.
Let reality be the teacher
Reality is the crudest teacher of all. It is the one that teaches with small punches, that sometimes, we, as parents, do not want our children to receive as we fear they will get hurt. That is a big mistake. They must be able to understand what the consequences of their failures are. That includes “small things” like not tidying up their room, or not washing the dishes after eating.
Use actions, not just words, and stick to them:
Children copy what you do, so you have to start being an example for them. Actions speak louder than words, and maintaining action will lead your child to positive behavior.
Choose your battles carefully
All children are different, some of them will be more prone to certain affinities, while others are attracted to other things. So, as a parent, do not focus your attention on dealing with small things, focus on those bigger changes. What is more important, the color of the shoes that your child wants to wear or what will he/she spends his/her free time on?
Remember that relationships come before rules
We live in a world full of rules, but before those is the relationship you have with your child. Your children are your priority in life, and their well-being is all that matters when disciplining them.
One last thought
Take time to forgive because before you realize it, your child will turn 18, and you will not be able to reach him/her the same way you could when he/she was a child.
Therefore, my final advice is that you value these precious moments, that you always seek God’s guidance, get closer to your children, respect them, and make their decision-making power to count. But do it by preserving and imposing healthy limits that prepare him/her to live his/her life on his/her own in the not-too-distant future.
By following these recommendations, we will be shaping emotionally and psychologically balanced children. With them, we can have an emotional bond, full of love and understanding. Children need real discipline that builds a good foundation for their growth process. They also need guides and helps them follow the path to being balanced and happy adults.
These adults will form healthy and loving bonds with their own children, since this is what they learned in their own homes. God wants us to build happy and loving homes.
Is it possible to apply these seven principles? Do you think applying them will be difficult? Do you think that putting them into practice could improve your children’s behavior and your relationship with them? Share your opinions with us in the comments section of this post so the way we can enrich our experiences as parents. God bless you.