Our Discipline Philosophy...what's yours?

Our "philosophy" about discipline is evolving as our daughter grows.

the-shirt-of-many-colorsIn 2.5 seconds flat (oh, was that years...?), she went from a bright-eyed and button-nosed infant to an active and independent toddler who is fearless, fun-loving, and full of spunk. She has a mind of her own and she doesn't hesitate to communicate her needs and wants. She truly is a leader in the making. She is tenacious yet tender-hearted, assertive yet compassionate. She's going places and we want to help her in that journey, while providing the boundaries that she so desperately needs from us. 

My husband and I talk about parenting often and here are a few "principles" that we believe in. We actually have never spelled them out in an acronym like this. But here goes... 

  1. BE the person you want your child to become. Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are big proponents of this...and so are we. In their book, The Parent You Want to Be, they state that, "It is more important who you ARE than what you DO." We couldn't agree more. If we are patient, our daughter will be patient. If we say "please" and "thank you," she will mimic those phrases. If we are gracious and forgiving, she will follow in our footsteps. We truly believe that working on our own character and considering our own actions/words is far more important than implementing any specific discipline strategies.
  2. ASSESS the situation. Take time to consider possible "causes" behind "bad behavior." Again, I think parents should first point the finger back at themselves before reprimanding their child unnecessarily. It always makes me sad when I see parents scolding their child when it is obvious that the child is hungry, overtired, or bored due to preventable situations. For example, is it really okay to get angry when YOU kept your child up past their bedtime or gave them a sugary treat in place of lunch? I certainly don't think we should excuse bad behavior, but I always strive to put things in perspective and to look at myself first.
  3. SET appropriate boundaries and state them clearly. Age-appropriate boundaries are crucial. If there are crayons all over the floor and your 1-year-old just won't stop putting them in his mouth, don't discipline him - just take the crayons away, for goodness sake! If you do set a boundary, be clear about your expectations and what will will happen if your child disobeys. For example, I might say to my 2-year-old, "Please hold my hand when we cross the street." If my daughter runs out in the road or lets go of my hand, I might say, "It's dangerous to cross the street without holding my hand. Please hold my hand. This is your warning. If you let go of my hand again, then X (you will have to go to time-out, we will have to go inside, etc.)." 
  4. KEEP anger in check. Anger doesn't help. Period. Screaming, shouting, getting red-faced, cursing, hitting things, hitting people. If you feel yourself losing control, step away. Don't risk losing your relationship with your child because your harshness gets in the way. Gentleness should be present - even smack-dab in the middle of a disciplinary situation.

You might notice that I didn't list any "tactics" (spanking, time-outs, grounding, etc.). That's because we think they are less important than examining the heart of the matter. Again - who we ARE is more important than what we DO. Actions speak louder than words...or spankings or lectures. Our kids watch us and then they do what we do. It's almost as simple as that. 

You might also notice that the acronym is BASK, which seems appropriate. To "bask," means (1) to lie exposed to warmth or light, or (2) to revel in and make the most of something. I think that's a nice way to view parenting. Positively. With a bent toward grace and forgiveness and compassion...and light.

YOUR TURN: What's your "discipline philosophy"?

P.S. I shared this movie clip some time ago, but - in case you missed it - here's a very powerful "visual" that demonstrates the fact that "Children See. Children Do" (produced by NAPCAN and Child Friendly Australia).

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15 comments on “Our Discipline Philosophy...what's yours?”

  1. Such great tips! I really love what you said: "be the person you want your child to become." I believe that completely. My toddler is just old enough now that he copies everything we do.

  2. Now that my daughter is 3 1/2 we are doing less and less time outs and more talking to her about what she just did and why that is not appropriate. Also when we were using time outs they were mostly for her and us to calm down - I have admit she would use her time outs to calm down and a lot of times there was no mess regarding going into time out.

  3. I would add:

    EACH day is a new day...so when you really blow it, you have a fresh start tomorrow.


    TELL them you're sorry when you need to.

    Notice the acronym is now BASKET, short for BASKET CASE. Because there are times when, as much as I know what to do and how to do it, I just don't seem to have the energy or patience to do it. And that's when I have to trust that its ok to make mistakes (even as the parent), ask for forgiveness, not beat myself up too much, and try again tomorrow.

    You are a beautiful mother and your philosophy is evident in real life! ;)

  4. We are very much on the same page in our parenting philosophies.

    It also is such a huge help when you're spouse feels the same way you do about discipline. I'm very glad of that in my marriage.

  5. You have a wonderful philosophy. I can tell that you've really taken the time and thought it through. I'm definitely going to be using some of your suggestions! I'm just beginning the "rebellious toddler" stage, so I don't really have any tips to share. I did hear that around 2 and a half years old is when you can really start to actually reason with them. I'm hoping so because right now there's just an awful lot of screaming going on!

  6. I like to think that I parent in this way. At least I try to, most of the time. What frustrates me the most though is that my husband and I do not parent in the same way - he is much more inclined to let frustration and anger dictate what he does, and how it does it, and then we end up arguing. Which is never a good thing, for anyone. :(

  7. This philosophy is very close to our own. Our little one is only 17 months old right now - but identifying the cause of the behavior before we discipline is one thing we definitely do. Also if I'm correcting her Hubby stays out of it and if Hubby is correcting her I stay out of it. If we disagree with how the other parent handled a situation we talk about it later. I know that she'll realize that Mommy and Daddy don't always agree but I also want her to realize that Mommy and Daddy respect each other and won't let her use one of us against the other.

    As for tactics - I'm the oldest of four by 10 years. I know from watching my Mom and Dad parent my younger sisters that the base principles are always the same but figuring out what tactic works best for dealing with each child is highly dependent on the individual child. One of my sisters had to have a physical punishment, another one responded really well to loosing privileges and yet another was crushed just by the knowledge that she had disappointed our parents... it really depends on the child!

  8. This sounds like such a great philosophy. It makes so much sense. Children are shaped by what they see around them. I'm definitely going to check this book out. Thanks for the recommendation.

  9. The most transformative parenting book I ever read was Alfie Kohn's The Unconditional Parent. A friend recommended it to me when I was talking about troubles I was having. There are no tactics or strategies for that either. I'd love to know what you think about it.

  10. I LOVE it! Your philosophy is very much like ours. I have to confess that I struggle most with the patience part. I'm working on it though. :-) Thanks for sharing.

  11. Well said! I couldn't agree more. Parenting is very much about your own heart and your own actions not about making your children do or act a certain way. Children are driven to be like us. They are created to imitate those who are around them. If our actions are inconsistent and don't reflect the values we want for our children, then we shouldn't be surprised by the bad results.

  12. Great philosophy! Sounds very similar to ours. When our little guy gets out of sorts, as most 2.5 year olds can do, we've found 1, 2, 3 magic to be very effective. I love that it meshes well with our personal philosophies, but allows for a time out (for all of us!) to forget and move on in a positive direction. Fortunately because we are doing many of the other things, like those you mentioned, it's rare that we even have to start counting! I can only hope it stays that way.

  13. Your words about your daughter are so beautiful, Steph. They truly warmed my heart. And remind me a lot of my middle child.

    For me I really try and parent them each in the way they each need. My first born needs a more tender approach. He needs more kisses and hugs. While my middle child needs to be independent and allowed to make some decisions on his own.

    My parenting style will evolve and grow as they grow but overall I hope to always keep a level of respect for my kids that I didn't receive as a child.


  14. With four children ranging from age 14 to 1, discipline takes various forms in our home. We really try to enact a logical consequence, or removal of privilege, especially for the older boys. One thing I have realized, though, is that every child is different and some need firmer guidelines than others. We make sure that our kids know that the discipline might look different for each of them, even for a similar offense, becasue what works well for one, the other might not respond to at all. Our ultimate goal is always to treat the child with respect, so that he will treat others with respect, as well...especially his brothers, in our case!

  15. I like your philosophy! I feel like I've incorporated a lot of the way I was raised into my own parenting philosophy. I try and talk to my two year old like she is older. I usually get down on her level and try and show her or talk to her in a way that she understands why I don't like what she is doing or how she is acting. If that doesn't work, she has to go into time out for a couple of minutes. After the time out I always reiterate what put her into time out and then end it with a kiss and letting her know I love her (after she apologizes). I go with the practice that you need to reproach or teach and follow it up with love. But I'm also willing to adjust my parenting style to what is going to work best with my child. I think that has to be considered as well!

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