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One of the pains of parenthood is learning how to discipline effectively. We arrive in this job of parent with no instruction book and conflicting information from a variety of sources. How do we get these little people to behave as we’d like them to?

The resource for this parenting strategy is STEP - THE PARENT'S HANDBOOK
by Don Dinkmeyer & Gary D. McKay. STEP stands for Strategic Training for Effective Parenting. Some of the goals of using logical consequences are to allow children to make decisions about their behavior, learn responsibility for their behavior and learn the social order of things; how their behavior influences society.

The theory is simple; the consequences for behavior should be logically connected to the behavior. Choices should be involved in eliciting appropriate behavior. Anger and threats will not work with this kind of discipline.

It is important to let children know that they will have another opportunity to choose differently at another time. For example: “David, I’m sorry you chose not to clean up your room when I asked you to. Since I’m going to have to clean these toys up to vacuum, I’ll have to put them away until tomorrow. You can try again then.”

In the example, the child was given a choice to clean up his room or not. He chose not to, the parent cleaned the room instead and the consequence was that he lost his toys for the remainder of the day. Follow through is vital. The toys cannot be returned until the next day without ruining the affect of the consequence.

In this, the child has learned about choice and responsibility as well as consequences. He had a responsibility to clean his room but chose not to and elected the consequence instead. At first, it feels awkward disciplining this way. But, with practice, it becomes natural and the tension and frustration of discipline begins to disappear.

When behavior doesn’t change and the same undesirable choice is made, the consequence needs to grow. With the example above, should David choose again the next day to not clean up his toys, increase the time they are taken away. “David, I see that you chose not to clean your room again. I’ll pick these up and put them away. Maybe you’ll be ready to make a different choice the day after tomorrow.”

This same theory works with pre-teens and teens as well. One of the typical battles with this age group is curfew. Together, parent and child set a reasonable curfew. If the child doesn’t come home on time, the logical consequence is to drop back to an earlier curfew. “David, I’m sorry you didn’t make it home on time. I guess you’re just not ready for a 10pm curfew. We’ll go back to a 9pm curfew and try again next week.”

The child was given a choice to arrive home on time and chose not to. He then was reminded of the responsibility and given a time period when he could try again.

The beauty of this plan is not only that it works but it also takes the animosity and anger out of the parent - child relationship. The child is given choices he or she can understand and is clearly made responsible for his or her behavior. There’s no need for either side to get angry and resentful.

I would encourage parents to pick up the book on this discipline model. It does work and you’ll learn so much. I am grateful I found it; my almost adult son and I have a great relationship as a result.