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Common Discipline Mistakes Dads Make

My fellow dads, we’re all too familiar with the following scene. The anticipated weekend is finally here. You’ve poured your cup of coffee, taken a sip, and while a delusional part of you still equates weekends with leisure and rest, you’re jolted into your reality by the sounds of your kids yelling and fighting. You know you have to intervene and you know your coffee will be cold by the time you’re done. So what’s your first move?

Many of us were raised in a household where discipline from dad involved yelling and physical punishment. The “wait until your father gets home” generation only instilled fear and shame rather than correcting unwanted behaviour. Now we’re faced with the challenge of finding ways to discipline our children without resorting to the hurtful ways we grew up with. Inevitably, we will make mistakes. Here are some of the common mistakes we dads tend to make and some advice on how to overcome them.

Losing your cool

When angry, my immediate reaction is to raise my voice. I am guilty of yelling to startle my kids into compliance and regrettably, it created an environment where yelling is okay. Often times, nobody is really hearing the message or knows why the shouting started in the first place. When I catch myself about to boil over, I try to take a few fist-clenching seconds to myself and respond in a calm, yet stern, approach. It will take a lot of practice but the results are much better. 

 

Bribery

“If you stop hitting your brother, we’ll go out for ice-cream.” All this teaches kids is that they’ll be rewarded if they misbehave and then change their behaviour. What we want is for them to act appropriately the first time, so try to praise and reward good behaviour as soon as you see it. In our home, when the boys are caught being kind to one another, we’ll all have a treat together and remind one another how good it feels to make the right choice.

 

Inconsistency

Not cleaning up the toys strewn across the floor is either met with indifference (I don’t care anymore), extremism (here comes the garbage bag), or defeat (you clean it up yourself, grumbling the whole time). Inconsistency is confusing for kids and they don’t know what you expect. If there is a repeat offence in your household, come up with a consistent and clear consequence. For us, favourite toys are taken away and can be earned back when the behaviour is improved.

 

Unconnected consequences

If we want our kids to learn from their mistakes, the punishment should fit the crime. If your child throws their dinner plate off the table, sending them to their room doesn’t really teach them anything. Instead, supervise them cleaning up the mess. A connected consequence allows kids to see that their mistakes have direct results.

 

Shaming, guilt, and withdrawing love

Guilt trips and shaming never work and create emotional distance between you and your child. When they mess up, it’s important for us to remind them that it’s their behaviour and their choice that we’re upset about, not themselves. We can always make better choices and we can always learn from our mistakes. Remind them often that you will always love them and that you know they will try harder and do better next time.

 

Kids who misbehave are often just searching for ways to have greater control over themselves and their environment. “All choices have consequences” is a message we try to repeat often to our boys. It puts the onus on them to self-regulate and empowers them to make better choices. They are reminded that poor choices are met with negative outcomes, and that good behaviours are equally noticed and rewarded. 

Frank Emanuele is a proud father of two boys, a special education teacher, and a director of Dad Club London.

 

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