by Ali McClure | 07 July 2017 | Education & Parenting

Children’s parents and people who care about children we all know how this impacts on our lives.

We also know about the consequences of a person’s actions. Many of us think we have a fair grasp of discipline
but what does discipline actually mean to you? There are many different definitions but for me the most important aspect of discipline is that discipline goes hand in hand with learning, (just as the disciples in biblical times learned from Jesus.)

I have a question for often, when a child has behaved inappropriately, does the exchange that follows
actually take that opportunity to help them to learn. How often does it help the child to question their own behaviour and lay the paths for a more appropriate action next time? I’m not talking about the old fashioned, often harsh, kind of teaching and learning as represented by phrases such as: 'That’ll teach them’ or ‘He’ll soon learn’. I’m talking about discipline that helps a child to see the consequences of their action, their impact on others and ways that this action may be avoided or amended for a more positive outcome in the future. If we imagine ourselves alongside our child, guiding them and supporting them then our response to their behaviour
will be just that. It will be guiding and supporting.

Yes, we do need to be firm and consistent. There are certainly times when ‘no’ has to mean ‘no’ and it is important that children understand, especially where safety is concerned. However, there are also times when it works better to be a little less authoritarian and hold back from being judgemental. We can work with the child to help them reflect on their behaviour and to agree an appropriate consequence.

Wherever possible consequences should be matched to the misdemeanour, after all that’s the way it works in real life; If you break something it is down to you to repair it. If you lose something it is your responsibility to replace it, or to go without, if you make a mess you have to clear it up. On the other hand, if you work hard at something the result can make you and others feel proud and usually to lead to positive outcomes. As our children mature, with our help, they learn about these consequences and therefore learn to think a little more and take a little more care before they act. These things may seem like a tall order if your child is still quite young but with caring respectful discipline, over time, this really can happen.

One thing we need to be sure of, especially if we have younger children, is that we are not expecting our child to do something that they are not yet ready for. Just because the other children in the toddler group can pour blackcurrant juice without spilling or most of the children in their class can make a beautiful, home-made card without sticking it to their clothes does not necessarily mean that your child is being disobedient if these things do not fall naturally into their skill set. We need to help youngsters by building in success and praising them when they make steps towards these challenging tasks, however small. We need to avoid the temptation to compare them with others and focus in on celebrating what our child is good at. We most certainly must
avoid humiliating them in front of others. All this will help them build greater confidence and self-esteem which in turn will result in their needing to behave in ways that demand our negative attention less frequently.

For happier times together we need to think of:

Realistic... Choose which BEHAVIOURS are important for us to address

Results...Be sure the CONSEQUENCES are appropriate and linked to the actions

Respect...In DISCIPLINE, know that every encounter with our child shows respect and is an opportunity to learn, for them and for us!

Ali McClure
Ali McClure is an experienced Parenting and Education Consultant and mother of three children. Her book ‘Making it Better for Boys’ has been widely acclaimed by parents, teachers and early years practitioners. She
offers training days and consultancy for schools and children’s settings and one to one parent coaching. Ali’s
work inspires and empowers those who care about children, emphasising enjoyment and positive relationships
for their learning and future.

"Transforms practice, Transforms lives"