Discipline: the Latin root word disciplina means both “teaching” and “learning.” (E.g., a disciple learns from a master who teaches.) If there is no learning occurring, there is no teaching occurring.
The Three Discipline Skills
We might say that a general goal of discipline is to teach children to care about themselves and others: Cooperation, Accountability, Integrity, Responsibility, and Empathy. New School Discipline rests upon the parent’s ability to dialogue and reach agreements where the child makes his/her own decisions.
Skill #1.Co-create (negotiate) clear agreements about two things:
- Behaviors (Things you either want or don’t want your child to do.)
- Consequences (Include positive and negative consequences.)
Skill #2. Hold the child accountable for breaking any agreements (the You-and-Me Dialogue).
- Don’t let them off the hook for breaking their agreements. Rescuing children through inconsistency is a way of telling children they’re incompetent.
- You-and-Me Dialogue: “How are going to treat each other?”
- Support your partner’s decisions with the child. Discuss later if necessary.
Skill #3. Be the consultant.Don’t rescue, but help the child solve his/her own problem.
- Be clear on who owns the problem. If the child does, not solve it; guide the child to solve it. This is like teach them to fish instead of giving them the fish.
- Use a 4 or 5 step process to guide the child in solving his/her problem.
The Parent’s Commitment to Dialogue
In my New School approach to discipline, the parent negotiates agreements instead of imposing rules because a person–including children–will be more likely to cooperate when s/he has participated in setting his/her own limits and behavioral expectations. In and of itself, the dialogue process is a teaching and learning process, as the parent teaches both listening skills and respectful speaking skills in the service of reaching win-win agreements and/or compromises. This is obviously an important relationship skill needed throughout life.
The child is sure to break agreements from time to time, just as s/he would break some imposed rules. When this happens, the Old School approach calls for a punishment or a negative consequence, which often does not work with angry or strong-willed children. Negative consequences occur naturally when agreements are broken, as other people become upset, and as plans go awry.
So parents don’t need to impose additional (logical) negative consequences. My “New School” approach works much better because the accountability dialogue replaces punishments with a focus on “how do we treat each other?” It is based on the Golden Rule.
Ideas presented in this article are expanded in greater detail in my book 3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony: A New-School Approach to Relationship Skills for Parents. The book is available for purchase in downloadable pdf format or in printed soft-cover. You can check it out with the following links: