Most people think of punishment when they think of discipline. The true meaning is much more powerful.

“Sometimes discipline, which means ‘to teach,’ is confused with criticism. Children–as well as people of all ages–improve behavior from love and encouragement more than from fault-finding.”
~ Susan W. Tanner

Why is “discipline” so misunderstood?

When it comes to parenting and the word “discipline” most people think of rules and punishment. I think a lot of this comes for the way our education system often portrays discipline. In my time in education as a student, teacher, and high school principal, discipline always had a negative meaning.

As a student, and remember I was somewhat of a troublemaker, I associated discipline with being in trouble and getting punished. It was all about paying the price for my mistakes or my bad behavior.

As a teacher, I thought of discipline as the enforcement/punishment that was used to motivate students. We had a “discipline office” where students were sent to be punished.

As a principal, everyone told me, “It’s your job to discipline these students.” They’d suggest the traditional methods of suspension, detention, community service, court referrals, and so on.

But, IT ALL missed the mark.

If you’re like I was and like most other parents, you’re misunderstanding discipline.

Often times we try to discipline our teens by criticizing their behaviors and decisions, followed by punishing them.

Though this is a process that we all dislike, we still fall into the trap of doing the same thing to our kids.

What is discipline?

The Latin word, disciplina, is translated as to train, to learn, or to teach. Notice how different that is from today’s understanding of the word. There’s nothing to do with punishment or criticism.

When we punish or criticize our we use an outward focus. We focus on our teen’s behavior and what we think THEY should do differently. Ultimately we are focusing on things outside of our control.

When we discipline or teach and train, we use an inward focus. Rather than focusing on our teen and things outside of our control, we look inward at OUR OWN role in the situation. We focus on how we can teach in that moment, how we can connect, or how we can support and encourage.

As a principal and foster parent, I learned that my role was to teach my teens new skills and to encourage them in the learning and developing of those skills rather than criticizing and critiquing their lack of skills.

When I learned this it changed EVERYTHING!

Rather than getting caught up on THEIR mistake, THEIR behavior, or THEIR attitude, which always led to judgement and frustration, I was able to focus on me and how I showed up to teach, support, and encourage.

It didn’t matter if I had to teach the concept one time or 1,000 times. All that mattered was that I showed up and did my part.

Discipline is NOT to change someone else. Disciplining your teen does not mean that your trying to change them.

Discipline means that you are showing up intentionally, doing YOU!

How to discipline without drama.

  • Keep Things in Perspective.
    • Remember that challenging parenting moments are nothing more than learning and teaching opportunities.
    • Look inward:
      • What can you control?
      • What is your role?
      • How do you want to show up?
  • Be emotionally intentional.
    • Model emotional control
    • This will help you build a rock-solid relationship
    • This will solidify the message you are teaching.
  • Focus on your role and be intentional.
    • My role as a dad is to teach, coach, and support.
    • When I discipline, I try to keep this in mind and intentionally teach, coach, and support.
    • Some situations call for different roles.
  • Practice teaching.
    • Teach a skill.
    • Teach a benefit.
    • Teach the expectation.
    • Teach the breakdown.
  • Show support, connection, confidence, and closure.
    • Show them that you’re in their corner.
    • Seek to understand where they are coming from and connect with them there.
    • Show them that you have confidence in them and their ability to grow.
    • When the conversation closes, don’t keep beating a dead horse.

So, what can you do now?

Put this into practice. This will take discipline on your part. You will have to learn and develop your skills in this area.

Trust that by YOU being true to your role and purpose as their parent, YOU WILL have a powerful impact on their life.

Take the plunge and practice disciplining without drama TODAY!

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