The Gift of Discipline

The Gift of Discipline

By Madeleine Byron

Gifts:  Birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.  We all know when to give gifts to our children.  We spend hours choosing, shopping and wrapping.  Gift giving is normally associated with much excitement and anticipation.  But what happens after this excitement is over?  Do we start planning for the next event?  Were the gifts appreciated? Were they returned?

Well, there is a gift that lasts a lifetime and continues to increase and improve with time.  This is the gift of discipline.  Discipline. You may be surprised and wonder how could discipline be a gift, the ultimate gift that keeps on giving?

What is discipline?  How can establishing discipline be a lifelong gift?  Why has discipline become an aspect of parenting that has been neglected and avoided?

Discipline is training to ensure proper behavior and is necessary to establish order and control.  A child who is raised in an environment where discipline is established has the tools necessary for all aspects of learning to take place.  Parents seem to have become fearful of discipline, focusing only on how it pertains to punishment.  However, discipline encompasses much more than punishment and therefore, establishing discipline is critical to a child’s development.

Pledging discipline to your child will ensure that your child can practice self- control and obedience.  Your child will be more self- confident as he/she knows what to expect and what is expected.

So the challenge is how we give the gift of discipline.  Firstly, in order to teach or instill discipline we must be disciplined ourselves.  You must be committed to the process, because as with any other changes to routine or behavior, the initial steps are the most difficult.  Remember that the most difficult part for parents is to stick to the new routine when you are tired or busy, and to follow through with consequences.   It is also equally as important to follow through on the ‘good ‘things you promise. So, if you said you would read a bedtime story or go for a walk, you must follow through.

Secondly, recognize the areas of your child’s routine or behavior which require modification.  For example is your child disorganized?  Defiant?  Or gives up to quickly?

Thirdly, determine a course of action!  For a disorganized child, a chart outlining the steps required to be prepared would be helpful and then most importantly you must enforce the consequences.  For example if an assignment was left home, do not take it in to your child’s school.  Let him/her face the consequence for a missing assignment from the teacher.

A child who is defiant is testing boundaries and testing your word.  Do you mean what you say and say what you mean?  For example if your child does not respond to you the first time you give an instruction, repeat with a sterner tone and an ‘I said’.   Counting to 3 for example just teaches your child that he/she does not need to respond to you when you speak.  Another way to help a defiant child be compliant is with the confiscation of items or privileges.  However it is very important that this is not done with a pre-determined timeframe.  For instance don’t take away computer privileges for the afternoon,  just take away computer privileges and say they will be returned when you are satisfied that the behavior has changed.

Another feature of discipline that is often overlooked is that of commitment, fulfilling obligations or dedication.  Too often, when faced with the first obstacle, children want to give up or quit activities, projects, etc.  Discipline leads to perseverance and then ultimately, success.  Accordingly, if he/she has joined the soccer team this semester, then it’s for the entire semester.

Discipline:  The ultimate lifelong gift, no shopping or wrapping required!