Get Curious, Not Furious: Discipline vs. Abuse

Get Curious, Not Furious: Discipline vs. Abuse

As caring adults, we read with horror the statistics and news stories of children who have been abused, neglected, or even killed. “How is it possible that their parents did not realize what they were doing and stop the abuse?” we ask.

One of the reasons is that society, at times, and many ordinary people do not know the difference between effective discipline and abusive behavior.  Many times, parents and care givers in my classes and workshop define discipline as a punishment.

Discipline is designed to help the child control and change their behavior, thereby guiding a child into a thinking, problem-solving, and responsible adult.  Physical punishment, which often turns into abusive behavior, does not take the child’s future into consideration.  Punishment is a short term solution to a long term problem or activity.

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Discipline Comes From Root Word ‘Disciple’

Discipline and assuming personal responsibility is a learning process.  It involves both preventing and correcting problems.  A disciple is a teacher, leader and mentor.  Thus, it follows that when using wise discipline we are helping our children to help themselves.

Too many times, parents discipline misbehavior by reacting angrily when things get out of hand.  Shouting, nagging, time-outs, and spankings are rarely effective ways to change how kids act.  In fact, what they teach the child is to shout, nag, manipulate, and hit others who are smaller.

In other words, don’t get mad. Get smart.  Have a discipline (teaching) plan in mind and try the following tactics to have a more cooperative child and happy family. Discipline is what you do to encourage good behavior and teach appropriate responses to daily life.

Discipline The Better Way

1.       Have regular family meetings and discuss family goals, expectations and rules.  Download a free copy of an agenda at  The more kids have input into the issues and consequences, they more they will follow along.

2.       Catch your child being good.  Weave lots of hugs, pats on the back, and smiles “just for no reason” throughout the day instead of showing involvement only when misbehavior is going on.

3.       Use logical and natural consequences to teach.  If your child leaves his bike outside, it is a natural consequence to lose bike privileges for a week.  If he steals a candy bar from the store, it is a logical consequence that he will have to take his money and return to the store to pay the manager.

4.       Say what you do want, not what you don’t want.  Tell the kids what you want them to do and they will hear and heed your words most of the time.  For instance, “I want your jacket hung up” is a very direct and specific thing to do, as opposed to, “This room looks terrible, get it cleaned up right now.”

Get Curious, Not Furious

If your child is misbehaving on a consistent basis, ask yourself why. More often than not, a child’s misbehavior is communicating something to us, and it is our job to figure out what is going on inside their head.  If we ignore what children want, we’ll be asking why they don’t share anything with us when they are teenagers.

Kids need us to set limits and enforce boundaries.  Limits help all of us to make good decisions.  However, remember that rules without relationships turn into rebellion.  While we use firm, kind and consistent discipline, our children will learn to cope and communicate better in the world around them.

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