The first step in non-negotiable discipline is to set up consequences for misbehavior in advance. Once those are in place explain the consequences to your child so they know what to expect. Then, when disobedience occurs, calmly relay the consequences. At that point, don’t negotiate consequences with your children.
A friend of mine recently took a privilege away from his daughter for willful disobedience. She lost the privilege of taking the car out Friday night. Well, she wasn’t going to take no for an answer and pleaded with her parents to let her wash, wax and clean the car instead. But, her parents stuck with their decision.
Establish clear, non-negotiable consequences for misbehavior ahead of time–then stick to them.
Discipline is something that should be handled in private. Think about how you would feel if someone corrected you in front of other people. It’s not a very positive experience.
So, when your child misbehaves, quietly acknowledge the misbehavior. Then, tell them that their consequences will follow when you get home. If you feel like you do need to address the issue right away, find a private place, and handle it there. Disciplining in private is really a matter of respect. Even in moments of correction we need to treat our children respectfully.
Now, an exception to the above is correction with very young children, 5-years-old or younger. Look at this example of a 4-year-old wanting his mother’s attention when she is talking to a friend.
Mom: So anyway, Beth, the doctor said it would probably take her about a week to recuperate and then… (Interrupted by her child)
Child: Mommy! I want to ask you something! Mommy! Where’s my dinosaur?
Mom: Excuse me Beth. Son, you know that you’re not supposed to interrupt people when they’re talking, don’t you?
Child: Yes, Mommy.
Mom: Ok, then wait quietly and I’ll be right with you.
Even in this case, the mother treated her son respectfully. She remained calm and spoke to him kindly.
Have you ever heard it said, “I was so angry, I couldn’t see straight.”? There’s some physiological truth to that statement? In his book, How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others and Resolve Conflicts, Dr. Robert Bolton says, Emotional arousal actually makes us different people than who we are in moments of greater calmness. When we are angry or fearful, our adrenalin flows faster and our strength increases by about 20 percent.
That condition is ideal for escaping danger, but it is not the best frame of mind for calmly disciplining our children. Instead, it’s best to wait until the heat of the moment has passed. If you need to, physically remove yourself from your child. Go into the next room if you have to, and calm down. Take some deep breaths or pray. If you can’t physically get away, resolve to hold your words until you are calmer. Then, clear your mind and review the consequences available for the current misbehavior. Once you have calmed down, share the consequences with your child.