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Nothing is easy about parenting, but discipline is one of the hardest things to master. Here’s a look at three mistakes you’re probably making:
1. You’re reacting to bad behavior
One of the hardest things about effective discipline is that it’s generally not something we think about until the need is immediate. That’s no way to parent — it forces you into a cycle of reactions, and that’s not what you want. Instead, before an issue arises, take a little time to think about what you want to achieve with discipline. Think about the common infractions you see, and figure out how you want to respond to those. Role play in your mind if you need to — it’ll help when you’re in the heat of the moment.
If you’re blindsided by something you never expected? It’s perfectly okay to say, “I’m so angry right now that I can’t think. There will be a consequence for this, but I don’t know what it is yet.” That’s a much better response than something you’re going to try to take back in ten minutes, or something you can’t possibly enforce (think: That’s it! No TV until you’re 27!).
2. You’re inconsistent
The biggest hurdle to effective discipline is consistency. If there’s a rule, there’s a rule. It should always be enforced. Every single time. So if the rule is “No TV before dinner,” that rule has to hold even when you have a lot to do or you’re exhausted or your husband is out of town on business or your mother-in-law is coming for dinner. That’s the rule, and if you ignore it, you can’t expect your kids to hold by it.