The Rules of the Roost by Effective Discipline Inspired by dedicated teachers around the country, this article gives families detailed instructions for creating an effective discipline plan.
You have been driving for hours on a straight highway. Suddenly, you see lights flashing behind you. You pull off the road to let the officer pass, only to realize he has pulled over, too. You are sure you must have a burned out taillight, or some other minor infraction, when he asks you to get out of the car. He removes the handcuffs from his belt and begins reading you your rights. As he shields your head from the backseat doorway, you ask him why you are being arrested. He replies that you have broken the speed limit. But there were no signs posted, you plead, I didn’t know what the limit was. His response? Tell it to the judge.
Most would agree that you were treated unfairly, yet this is what we do to our children every day. We enforce rules that were never posted, because the child should have known better.
In order for your children to follow the rules, they need to know them. Whether your child is eighteen months or eighteen years, it is important to establish rules and consequences and enforce them consistently. The best way to do this is with a family discipline plan.
The benefits of a discipline plan far outweigh the initial effort required. Your children will understand the rules and expect appropriate consequences, making discipline an objective occurrence rather than something done in the heat of anger and frustration. Also, because everyone is directly involved in the creation of the rules and consequences, all family members will have a stake in the plan’s success. Taking the time initially allows the plan to be easily updated as your family continues to grow and change. Below are the steps to developing a family discipline plan. Remember, this family plan requires input from the entire family.
- 1 Schedule a family meeting.
- 2 Making the Rules.
Decide which behaviors you can live with and which you cannot.
This is something to be done by the adults in the household before a family meeting is held. Oftentimes parents will have differing opinions of what is acceptable. For instance, mom may allow the children to jump on their beds, while dad scolds for the same behavior. It is vital that the adults of the household provide a unified front so the rules are always consistent. Set aside time to think about and talk about all of the times you have disciplined your children, then decide and write down the behaviors you would most like to change. Keep in mind that your children are children and make your expectations consistent with their abilities.
Schedule a family meeting.
Set a time when all members of the family can convene at the same time without unnecessary distractions. Let the children know that the meeting will be about forming a family discipline plan, and advise them that their opinions will be important. Give them a few days to think about what behaviors they feel should be allowed or banned. Also ask them to consider the discipline methods that are currently in place at home and at school, and have them evaluate the pros and cons of each.
Prepare for the meeting.
Before gathering the family together, be sure to have all of your supplies ready so that you will not disturb the flow of ideas because your pen ran out of ink. You will need several sheets of paper, and three or four working pens/pencils. You may also want to bring a scratch pad and writing tool for each member of the family so they can jot down their ideas if someone else is talking. Be sure to have snacks and drinks available. Also in preparation for the meeting, turn on the answering machine and turn off the television so there will be no interruptions.
Hold the meeting.
Start the family meeting by establishing rules of etiquette for the conference. These include not talking while others are and not making fun of other’s ideas.
The meeting moderator (usually the person reading this article) will start the brainstorming session by asking for all of the behaviors that can be considered inappropriate. All items mentioned are written down, no judgment passed. Be prepared to get some interesting suggestions. Going to school, or Parents yelling. Write EVERYTHING down. After some initial silliness, there will be thoughtful answers provided. This brainstorming process will usually take about fifteen minutes, but let it continue if ideas continue to be generated.
Evaluation and Discussion.
Look at the suggestions provided during the brainstorming session, and discuss each one to find whether it is valid or not. For example, Going to School cannot be banned give the reasons and benefits of this behavior. Parents yelling, however, may be kept on the list this is a plan for the whole family, and there may be behaviors your kids need you to change, too.
Making the Rules.
Look at the remaining items, and try to put similar suggestions together. For example, banned behaviors such as hitting, kicking, biting, yelling at the kids, and calling people names can be grouped under. Respect Others. Try keeping the rules phrased in a positive way, as in the previous example.
After you have decided on the rules, ask your children to decide what consequences should be enforced if the rules are broken. What should we do if you break the rules? Write down increasing levels of discipline for each time the rules are broken. For example, the first offense may get a verbal warning; the second may take away a privilege (such as watching television or using the car) for a specified amount of time, a third offense may remove an extracurricular activity, and so on.
Create and Sign Rule Contracts.
Take the information you gained from the family meeting and create a rule contract. This is simply a document listing the rules and consequences. At the bottom, add a statement such as, I have read and agree to the terms listed on this document. Have each member of the family sign and date it. Signing it commits all family members to abide by the rules. Make a copy for each person to keep as a reminder, and also post copies around the house.
Follow the Rules.
Both you and your children now need to follow the rules and enforce consequences. Consistency is the foundation of every successful plan. Don’t ignore unacceptable behaviors or justify them, it will weaken your credibility with your children.
Update the rules as necessary.
As you live the discipline plan, you will find that some rules are irrelevant, some consequences ineffective, and new rules need to be added. When this happens, call another family meeting to update the contracts. Follow the steps above, and create new contracts. Subsequent meetings will take substantially less time, and will keep the rules relevant and effective.
Creating a plan takes much of the stress of disciplining off parents. While you will continue to enforce the rules, it will no longer be seen as unfair. The rules and consequences have been discussed and agreed upon by the entire family — everyone had a part in making the rules, and it is everyone’s responsibility to follow them.