Discipline With Encouragement

Discipline with encouragement may seem like an oxymoron. How could discipline possibly be encouraging? Isn't it always painful and depressing?

image The answer is no, discipline need not always be that way. Here's why.

Punishment and discipline are not synonyms, as many assume. Discipline is simply training that corrects, shapes or perfects one's moral character or mental faculties. While discipline includes punishment, punishment is only one of several disciplinary tools that parents may use in training their children. Further, discipline can include both encouraging and corrective elements. Here are some encouraging things parents can do to discipline their younger children:

Preactivity reminders. Before an event, talk to your child about the behavior you expect. For example, say, "When we go to visit Mrs. Smith, I want you to say, 'Hi, Mrs. Smith. Thank you for inviting me to your home.'"

Preactivity affirmation. After explaining the behavior you expect, have your child say, "Yes, Mommy," or "Okay, Daddy." Verbal affirmations help your child solidify in his or her mind the actions he or she will display.

Preactivity modeling. Have your child practice what he or she will say or do before the activity. Again, this helps prepare a child for the behavior expected.

Postactivity praise. We all appreciate praise when we do a good job. Our children generally also respond well to praise and are influenced to future obedience when they receive this kind of encouragement.

Appropriate touch. Praise coupled with an affectionate pat or hug is also highly motivating to our children.

Reward skill development. Occasionally rewarding children when they have mastered a new skill promotes maturity. Be careful, however, not to get into the reward trap where every time a child behaves properly, he or she expects a reward. This can deteriorate into bribery. Proper behavior is something we are all supposed to do all the time (Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, Let the Children Come Along the Virtuous Way , Leader's Guide, pp. 188-190).

Sometimes corrective discipline will also be required to help children properly mature. Use of encouraging discipline as described above can lessen the need for correction and strengthen the relationship between a parent and child.

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