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Parenting Kids, Christian Parents

Hey, Parents: Discipline Can Be Simple

  • Michael Smalley, M.A. Michael Smalley is a marriage and family counselor
  • 2001 5 May
  • COMMENTS
Hey, Parents: Discipline Can Be Simple
How would you like a simpler, consistent and effective discipline strategy that may bring you closer as a family and help your children become more responsible and mature?

Wouldn't we all want that? Guess what? It's not impossible! Growing up in the home of a marriage and family expert wasn't perfect, but I will say this for my parents: They had a great idea for making discipline better for them and for me.

Are you wondering what it is? We like to call it a family contract. A document with the rules and regulations of the family with extremely clear consequences for missing any of the items contained in the contract. Basically, it's a ticket to easier and more effective discipline for your home. A family contract is a great way to help children of all ages learn limits, take responsibility for their own actions, and own their place within the family.

If you want to create your own family contract, keep at least these four areas in mind when sitting down with your children to write your contract:

1. Precise Wording: Don't let the language get bogged down or overly complicated for your children, this will only allow misinterpretations to creep in and cause a lot unwanted complications.

2. Clear Rewards and Consequences: Make sure your kids know what happens when they obey and when they disobey. You don't have to get elaborate with your rewards and you don't have to be overly harsh with your consequences. Please keep balance in mind. Most importantly, your children have to be involved in the selection of both rewards and consequences.

3. Teenager and Parent As Co-Creators in the Re-negotiation: I've already mentioned that you and your kids need to create this together. It's not unlike the Constitution of the United States, where it was designed, developed and signed by a group of people working together for the good of the whole. This needs to be the same for your family. When you allow your kids to be involved with the making of your family contract it helps them own their responsibilities and consequences more because they helped develop them.

4. Get Everyone To Sign The Contract: Make the contract "family" legal! You don't need a lawyer to draw it up for you, but signing it forces everyone to take it more seriously, and your kids can't say they didn't "know" about a consequence or rule.

I've included our old family contract at our Web site, www.smalleyonline.com. If you'd like to see what ours looked like so you can get a better idea of how to start you own, please click here.