Discipline for Dads

Effective discipline requires positive attention and good relationships, says Tom Beardshaw from Fathers Direct. Tom gives his top tips for how parents can work together to discipline their children.

How to discipline your children - as a team

When most people hear the word ‘discipline’, they have in their mind an image of some kind of punishment. In fact, sometimes it seems the only big ‘discipline’ issue of the day is whether or not parents should use physical punishment.

But this is such a small part of the whole picture. The word discipline comes from the same linguistic root as the word ‘disciple’, and this is a big clue as to what discipline really should be all about – bringing children up with a sense of right and wrong in the context of a close and trusting relationship with someone in charge (hopefully the parent!), and someone else (hopefully the child!) doing most of the learning.

In fact, discipline should be much more to do with nurturing and encouraging good behaviour than it should be about punishing bad. And the key is understanding what motivates and excites your child, so you can help them find the motivation they need to behave well and do what is asked of them. Knowing and understanding your own child’s personality and character is at the heart of good discipline.

Positive parenting

A great thing to remember is that children will do almost anything to get the attention of their parents. If you leave them to themselves when they’re being well behaved and only intervene and talk to them when things have gone wrong, they’ll quickly learn that it takes bad behaviour to get what they want – you. So the first rule of discipline should always to give lots of positive attention to children when they’re behaving well, and withdraw attention when they’re being naughty.

In the archives of roles that have been attributed to fathers over the centuries, the idea that dad should be a discipliner of his children has often cropped up. It should come as no surprise to anyone, however, that it’s actually mums who do far more disciplining of their children – simply because mums do more parenting in general.

Yet there is a persistent sense of a father’s role in providing punitive discipline to his kids – summed up in the old cliché “wait till your father gets home” – something that children are most likely to hear when they’ve grown to the point where mum doesn’t feel able to cope with disciplining a large surly teenager anymore.

For many dads, stretched for time with their children, this can create a problem. A common response to having precious little time with your children is to be very playful and fun – filling time with high energy, play, treats and games. While this can be hugely effective for bonding quickly, it can make life really complicated if dad suddenly attempts to turn into a stern disciplinarian. The problem is that the relationship hasn’t developed sufficient depth for a teenager to really respect their dad ordering them about.

Relationships are the key to discipline

For many dads, the real challenge is developing the kind of relationship with their children that creates the depth and closeness needed for discipline to be effective. This means devoting time and energy to them, and understanding their world – their friends, interests, hobbies and what they love. These are the keys that will unlock a relationship that’s capable of bringing real discipline into a child’s life.

Top tips for discipline

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