Dealing with Discipline

Instruction or punishment?

Disciplining a child isn't easy. All children misbehave. The challenge for parents is to approach discipline as a learning experience, not simply a punishment.

Most parents realize that discipline in their homes is the daily practice of preset rules...rules they've agreed on with their children...rules that encourage the development of responsible behavior at home, in school, and elsewhere.

Extreme measures - such as repeated physical punishment - are not effective in maintaining discipline. The opposite extreme - giving children unjustified rewards - also sends the wrong message.

The solution? Think positively.

Parents and school staff need to praise good behavior and correct misbehavior. This will set the pattern for self-discipline - a key to your child's success.

Improving your children's behavior

  • Create an atmosphere of trust - let children know they can turn to you.
  • Discuss the problems that cause your children distress. Remember, what seems insignificant to you may be a big problem to a child.
  • Encourage children's respect for authority.
  • Examine your own attitudes toward authority and discipline. Are they clear? Firm? Consistent? Most important, are they fair?
  • Be firm but not unreasonable; allow children to express their views.
  • Watch for signs that your child is "turned off" - to you, to school, to valuable friends.
  • Allow your children to experience the results of their actions...to take responsibility for what they say and do.
  • If your child gets into trouble at school, get all the facts before reacting - including the teacher's point of view. Visit or call the school and talk to the teacher.

Remember, children do not feel comfortable with more responsibility than they can handle. They often wish their parents would take over. The responsibility of discipline starts with us - parents and school staff.

Communication is the key

Discipline begins with communication: telling your children what you need, listening to their needs, and developing fair rules - together.

  • Don't lose your temper.  Children need to know you're in control.
  • Don't give your children a mixed message by behaving in one manner and asking them to behave differently.
  • Be strict but consistent. Children like the security of strong support.
  • Be a parent, not a "buddy." Children need the guidance of responsible adults.
  • Be a guide. Let them know about your beliefs and encourage theirs.
  • Stress the importance of not repeating wrong behavior. Emphasize how our wrongs can hurt other people - in ways we would not want to be hurt.
  • Punish no more than the misbehavior warrants - and always do it with love, not anger.
  • Be honest and open. Be generous with sincere and deserved praise. Criticism is more easily accepted when accompanied by praise.

Discipline should mean constructive guidance ... positive guidelines that help your child now and later. That's not an easy job. You will, at times, lose your temper and say or do things you wish you hadn't. But if those times are rare, they are temporary setbacks, and you will still accomplish a great deal.

Home and school working together

Understand the school's discipline code

Every New Jersey school district is required to have a written code of conduct for students. It outlines unacceptable behavior and establishes penalties. Ask your school for a copy. Read it, and let your child know you're reading it. You gain the respect of both your child and the school staff when you take an interest in hild and the school staff when you take an interest in knowing the rules.

Encourage regular attendance

Understand your school's attendance policies. Your child's academic standing may be affected by absences. Plan family vacations or other activities to avoid taking your child out of school unnecessarily. Of ly. Of course, if there is a special problem, such as long-term illness, the school needs to know. See that your child makes up any work missed during an absence.

Work with teachers

When a particular concern arises and you want to talk to your child's teacher, arrange a conference as soon as you can. Teachers welcome the interest and help of parents.

Always go to the teacher first. If you still feel the problem has not been resolved, ask for a joint conference with a guidance counselor or principal. If you immediately go "over the head" of the teacher, you are sending the wrong message to both the teacher and your child.

A decision to include the child, or anyone else, in your conference with the teacher should be a mutual one.

Remember that the goal of the conference is to resolve a problem, not to fix blame.

If a child misbehaves in school, it may be a carry-over from something that happened at home, just as a blow-up at home may have started in school. That's why everyone on the school staff wants to keep in touch with you about school programs, school policies - and especially your child.

Tips for Parents of Teens

Show you respect them

Even when you "know" your children are wrong, you must listen to them.  Allowing them to share their feelings and reasons can only help you to understand them better.  If you stop listening, they'll stop talking.

Recognize the impact of peer pressure

To many teenagers, their friends' views are more important than their parents' opinions.  Criticizing those friends or their views may drive a teenager further away from you.

Even when you "know" your children are wrong, you must listen to them.  Allowing them to share their feelings and reasons can only help you to understand them better.  If you stop listening, they'll stop talking. To many teenagers, their friends' views are more important than their parents' opinions.  Criticizing those friends or their views may drive a teenager further away from you.

On the other hand, don't give up your role as a parent to become "one of the gang."  Try to find a balance between being the responsible adult without becoming "the enemy."

Respect the fact that peer pressure exists, and tell your children when you think such pressure is leading them in the wrong direction - and why.

Attend school events

Parents of teenagers often neglect school events, such as back-to-school nights and regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences.

Don't miss these opportunities to learn what your child will be studying and to provide information that will help school staff to work with your child.  

School staff and families...the more we work together, the more we'll help our children.

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