Fatherhood Guide: Discipline

To many fathers, the word discipline raises connotations of severity and authoritarian approaches to child rearing. Unfortunately, discipline has become equivalent with punishment in too many families, and too many fathers think discipline has something to do with threatening, yelling, spanking, or even worse when they deem the behavior of their children to be unacceptable. Discipline, when done well, has far more to do with loving guidance and teaching with the child’s best interests and happiness in mind than does with punishment and making the child feel bad about things he or she did or did not do. Punishment as applied in too many homes today is harsh and punitive and has little to do with whether or not a child adopts healthy behaviors and patterns toward life. Unfortunately, many fathers don’t know how else to discipline their children because they were raised in homes where their fathers were rarely present due to working long hours in dead end jobs. Rather, their mothers were responsible for the bulk of their parenting, and in many cases their mothers simply threatened them with the specter of their fathers returning home to punish them for their misbehavior.

As a result, far too many men in the United States grew up in homes that did not have fathers who were strong, responsible, loving, and compassionate. In many cases, entire generations of men grew up with fathers who were not present at all. Many of these men are naturally unsure when they become fathers of how to parent effectively or how to elicit cooperation from their children without resorting to yelling or harsh punishments. No matter which kind of background you came from as a man, as a father, it is very important for you to be consistent with your partner and with yourself in providing guidance that is kind and firm and discipline that is compassionate and instructive.

It is important for both parents to be on the same page when it comes to a number of different issues in parenting, and discipline is no exception. When you are permissive while your partner is strict or when your partner is permissive while you are punitive, having both methods in the home will create a confusing and inconsistent environment for your children. It is somewhat similar to living in a town where there are two different police departments that are operating simultaneously and enforcing two different legal systems at the same time. Children quickly learn that they are working with different sets of rules depending on the parent they deal with and it does not take long for children to start preferring one parent or using the rules of one parent to combat the rules of the other.

As you can imagine, conflicting approaches to parenting and discipline are not healthy for your children in the long run. As a father, it is important to make a decision regarding your parenting and your discipline so that both are consistent and respectful toward your children. You will be surprised how much more your child is willing to meet the guidelines you have set once you make your expectations clear and reliable to your child. As a side bonus, your child will also develop a deeper sense of trust with you as she or he comes to realize that you will stand behind your word no matter the situation.

If you are looking to build a strong relationship with your children in all areas of your interactions with them but particularly in discipline, you should strive to be kind and respectful all the time, regardless of how firm you are while you do so. This means you speak to your children calmly even when they do things that upset you or things that you think they should know better than to do. It means you listen to your children. It means you love them no matter what.