The Three Biggest Mistakes Made in Disciplining Children

disciplining childrenChild Management and Disciplining Children at School and at Home

As a teacher of 16 years I can attest that my greatest battles in the classroom were due to behavioral issues with students. I knew consistency was the key but with a room full of students and a variety of behaviors needing correcting, all too often I did not get the results I hoped for. The three components which I found offered the greatest success rate in managing children’s behavior were consistency, taking the time to do it right and parental support.


The main reason teachers and parents have told me they are not consistent in managing child behavior is because they are afraid “the child won’t like them”. This makes it more about the adult than the child because most children will admit they appreciate guidelines and knowing what to expect, whether it be at home or at school.

For example, as an adult, wouldn’t you be bothered if bridges didn’t have side rails on them? You have no intention of driving over the edge of the bridge, but knowing the rails are there offers security. It’s the same for kids; they actually like rules because it gives them a sense of security.

Being consistent as a teacher or parent certainly is more work. It takes time, organization and a bit of getting over yourself. Meaning, it is very difficult to discipline appropriately if you are worried about hurting the child’s feelings and worried they may not to like you. It’s important to realize this is not about you, but about what is best for the child.

Taking the Time to do it Right

Many parents have not acquired the necessary skills or they do not make available the necessary time to manage their child’s behavior in a manner that is healthy for the child. Parents frequently resort to what appears to be a “quick fix” to force children to obey such as using threats, yelling and punishment.

While there are times when an appropriate form of punishment is necessary, research shows punishment alone is not successful in modifying behavior. A child may change their behavior in response to punishment, but only for a short time, while in the presence of the parent. Unfortunately, there are no genuine behavioral changes and productive, sustained learning does not occur.

The child is often left confused about what is expected, resentful toward the parent and more likely to sneak around and continue the behavior when the parent isn’t looking. Further, these children, when caught, will begin to deny what they did or find some other excuse to justify their inappropriate behavior.

Consequently, increased resentment toward the parent and a tendency to increase other inappropriate behaviors to “get back” at the parent may increase.

The parent must realize that the process of developing socially responsible children does not rest on the occasional application of some quick fix. Rather, for the emotionally healthy parent who themselves were reared by responsible, knowledgeable adults, the systematic application of parenting techniques their parents used or that they’ve observed in other adults can be the foundation of their parenting philosophy with their own children. These proven principles can be modified and adapted to fit the unique personalities of their own child.

One size does not fit all. Ask any parent of at least two or a teacher of twenty-two, one child may cower at so much as a scowl while another seems oblivious to all but the most direct measures. At this point the successful parent or teacher will consistently apply techniques and strategies that have proven successful in the past, but also be adaptable to new ideas offered by other parents or teachers.

Parental Support

One of the more frequent and legitimate complaints teachers have when it comes to discipline is not having enough parental support. Disciplining a child without parental support may work but it is less likely to have lasting impact. Of course as a teacher, sometimes you are trying to maintain some semblance of classroom control with or without parents’ cooperation. To learn more about parental support and getting along with your child’s teacher please refer to this article: Solving Parent Teacher Communication Problems

In addition to your job of motivating a classroom of students, you will sometimes need to use those same learned skills to motivate parents. Sharing your observations in a non-threatening way with the parent and asking if they have noticed a similar behavioral pattern at home or other situations will demonstrate that modifying the child’s behavior will take a team approach.

If you are a motivated parent willing to use solid child management strategies consistently and are willing to make modifications to your fundamental parenting philosophy, based on new ideas that are consistent with their beliefs, you will find the end result more pleasing, if not perfect.

Sound like a lot of work? You bet it is. That is why most parents and some teachers don’t do it. Many parents do not know what to do and simply make half-hearted efforts, or resort to only punishment or they just give up. The offices of mental health professionals and even jails are filled with the causalities from homes in which parents did not take the time and/or effort to parent.

Parenting can actually be more difficult than learning a foreign language to proficiency. However, despite the tremendous effort and sacrifice parents must make towards successful parenting, the knowledge that you have reared a responsible child to adulthood is infinitely satisfying. And it is the right thing to do.

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