What’s The Point: A Conversation About Consequences And The Purpose Of Discipline

I think of discipline as the continual, everyday practice of helping a child learn self-discipline.

- Fred Rogers

A powerful statement - of both discipline and consequences. One that I apply quite personally to students, and certainly should be practiced by parents and educators alike.

What are consequences, and why do we have them?

What role do they play in discipline?

How does all of this affect learning and a child's desire to explore the world?

 There are a few key points to remember when it comes to discipline and consequences, whether it's in the home or in school. One of the most contentious issues is that of discipline itself - not so much whether it should or should not be done, but rather how it should be done, and what level of involvement is both acceptable and constructive. Over the years in the education field, working closely with various different styles of parenting and numerous children's personalities, there are successful (and unsuccessful) patterns I have noticed.

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Regardless of whether you are a teacher or a parent, here are some some helpful tips to guide your discipline strategies and choice of consequence.  

Tip #1 - Communicate Expectations, And Honor Your Word

  Setting up a positive scenario for discipline and consequences means communicating clearly with your child or student, before a situation happens in which those consequences become necessary. Explaining the repercussions of certain actions in a calm setting, and making sure that they are comprehended, is just as important as following through with those actions, whatever they may be, when the situation arises. Creating a strong future relationship means setting, and respecting, boundaries.

Many children need a clear structure to thrive in their environment - but even if they don't, you as a parent or educator must honor your word, particularly when it comes to consequences. Doing this sets clear expectations, and allows children to comprehend that their actions set off a chain reaction of dominos. Whether those are good dominos or bad ones, the message you are sending is clear - certain actions are acceptable, while others are not.

Regardless of how you as a parent or educator treat discipline or consequences, it is important to remember: your level of integrity is crucial. When children have clear and consistent expectations in front of them, whether they are academic or otherwise, they are much more capable of rising to meet those expectations than if there were no expectations to start with.

Tip #2 - Make It Constructive

Without a doubt, this is the most important thing to remember when it comes to discipline and consequences. When it comes to a child's learning, it is important to take actions that will encourage and foster life-long learners, not actions that will turn them off of learning and stifle their curiosity. One of the ways in which this should be done is through positive reinforcement as disciplinary measures.

Think of it as the difference between saying "You must do this because...or else..." as opposed to "Why might this be a good option for you to choose? What things will you learn or skills will you develop?"

"You can't teach children to behave better by making them feel worse. When children feel better, they behave better."

– Pam Leo

Guess what? They learn better too. When you show children the rewards they can have, in school and in life, when they learn well and learn consistently, you are fostering the natural desire for learning, the momentum and curiosity that drives that niggling and consistent "Why?"

Tip #3 - Involve Them In The Process

It is quite amazing the comprehensive abilities children have when consequences and discipline are properly explained and correctly structured. Why not involve them in the process of helping to create their own boundaries and guidelines? If they not only know, but help to create, these methods, they are in a much better position than if they had no control over the outcome.

And when children feel as though they have a say, and realize that they have been given these responsibilities, it further encourages a positive mindset - one of creativity and self-accountability. Nurturing these traits from a young age is important to developing a lifelong drive to reach for the stars.

Discipline IS Necessary

Like all good things, everything in moderation. It really is all about the journey, even though it might seem like it's important to "get it right the first time." Remember we're all human, and everyone has off days. Pick your battles with your kids or students, but be consistent in how you show up in this arena. Perfection is not achievable, but progress is.


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