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How Do Effective Parents Discipline Their Children?

How do effective parents discipline their children? I'm Nicholeen and I'm the star of a BBC television show called The World's Strictest Parents. Now, don't turn this off yet. I know that sounds scary. But back in 2009.

BBC over in England brought 2 British teens to our home to stay for 8 days. And what they saw was calmness, they saw hearts changing, they saw these 2 teens not even wanting to leave our home at the end of the program. 

What they saw was effective parenting. And I want to tell you what that is. So, that's what this article is all about. How effective parents discipline their children. Effective parents are not angry parents. But they're firm. Effective parents are calm parents but they're not passive. 

Effective parents know how their actions and their words and their feeling the tone that comes out of their words is processed by their children. I am an assertive parent. And I call my assertiveness self-government. 

Self-government is being able to determine the cause and effect of any given situation and possessing a knowledge of your own behaviors so that you can control them. What that means is that each person understands cause and effect. 

That I understand cause and effect. If I say something in a certain way, this is how the child is going to process it. Now, maybe you think how could you ever know every way they're going to process it? Well, for years I did treatment foster care for troubled teens. And I know how they process it. 

We had a lot of discussions about what was effective and not. And I fine-tuned my parenting over those years so that I could create an environment for my children where they could thrive and accomplish the things that they were meant to do in their lives. 

The second part of the self-government definition is possessing knowledge of your own behaviors. So, this means you deliberately plan your behaviors. You write them out even. You say "This is the way that I will solve problems." In our family, we have charts, we have cards, we have books. We have journals. 

We have all kinds of things that we use to keep ourselves on track. It's called being deliberate. It's self-governing. A self-governed parent or a parent who's on the track to being self-governed, you don't even have to be there yet can help a child learn self-government too. And when the child learns self-government, they're empowered. 

They make decisions that other children may be normally wouldn't because they're the hard decisions. They learn how to push themselves forward to do those hard things. It's amazing to see the difference between a child that's motivated and self-governed and a child who thinks everyone has to do everything for them. Really effective parents empower their children. 

They let the children know that their happiness is up to them, it's their choice, it's not the parent's choice. The parent is going to do everything that they can to keep the environment in such a way that the child always gets the opportunity to learn cause and effect from their actions. 

Here are 5 principles that I've learned to make parenting very effective. But before we talk about those, I just want to make sure we're clear that there is a difference between effective and efficient. Efficient is when a person tries to get a whole bunch done in a short amount of time. 

Fewer words, less time. But effective oftentimes requires more words and more time. Effective to me is when it really hits the heart when it really means something. When a person experiences some sort of change and efficiency is just when you got a lot of things done. Which doesn't mean it was very transformational for anybody. So, let's talk about the first principle. 

The first principle is you can't just change one heart. So, self-government is all about changing hearts. It's about each person choosing to change their own heart. But if you have one child say who maybe is the one that's the problem. People always tell me, "Oh, everyone's pretty good but it's just this one. He just really struggles." Or "She just really will not listen to a thing I say." 

Whatever it happens to be. And they'll want my program for the one. And then they find out once they get started that this program is for the whole group. If you're going to change one heart, you have to change the entire culture. You don't just go and target one heart and expect that what you do to that other person will change them. 

They have to change their own heart which means that the whole environment around them needs to change to facilitate that. So, even if you think some of those other children don't have any problems with their own self-government, you'll still see some changes when you implement a structure and a tone into your home that holds everybody accountable for their own self-government. 

Principle number 2 is parents are meant to point the direction. This means your job is to describe what's happening, to describe what goes well, and to describe what doesn't go well. And you've got to do it in a way that's motivating. So, if you're pointing the direction that someone should go in a way that's condescending, belittling, emotional then they're just going to feel like you're trying to control them. And you don't ever change hearts. So, that means it's not effective if you're just trying to control another person. Parents who just attempt to control another person or manipulate another person are focusing on being efficient, not effective. 

Principle number 3, the parents need to know what's happening in a situation to solve problems. So, if you're going to discipline a child, you've got to be able to target the exact place where the discipline or adjustment needs to happen. So, we teach our children skills. There are 4 basic skills that we teach our children. We teach them how to follow instructions, accept no answers, accept consequences, and disagree appropriately. 

Those 4 basic skills, if they learn all of them and they each have a skill set attached to them, take care of 99 of all of their behavior problems. So, for instance, following instructions is a basic skill. If a person doesn't know how to follow instructions or doesn't choose to follow the instructions from their parents, then the parents can't actually parent them. 

So, follow instructions includes looking at the person, keeping a calm face voice, and body. Saying okay you're asked to disagree appropriately. Do the task immediately and then check back. If I tell a child that I need them to take out the kitchen garbage and they look at me and then they go, "Okay." And they start to walk away to do it, hmm... What is happening? See, that's what we need to know are they really doing the skill or are they not doing the skill? Because they walked off to take out the kitchen garbage. Some people might just think, "Well, at least they're doing it. 

They're not happy about it. They did say okay they did look at me." But what about that second step? Keep a calm face, voice, and body? They did not keep a calm face voice and body. And so, they need to be corrected. 

When you effectively discipline your children, you know where to pinpoint that the problem went wrong so that they can fix it. If you just say, "You're being disrespectful." Do they really know what to fix? But if you say, "Just now I gave you an instruction. You looked at me. You said okay and you went off to do it. 

But you didn't keep a calm face, voice, and body." So, you're actually not fully following instructions. If you can describe it like that to them, then they know what to fix. And that's what you're going to tell them next is what they should have done, right? And then you'll even allow them to practice it the right way and they'll probably get the opportunity to earn a negative consequence as well. 

Principle number 4, know what to say. Really effective parents know what to say. They plan it out. So, when I'm going to correct a child, I describe what happened. Just like I showed you in the last principle. Then I describe what should have happened. 

And then I give them a reason why that would be a good chance to make. And then I tell them this is what you earned. And I always say earned. Because it's their self-government journey. And they are the ones learning cause and effect from those actions. So, they earned something. 

Then we get the opportunity to practice it the right way and they get to go and do their negative consequence which in our family is actually usually always an extra chore. So, you've got to know what to say. Now, there are perks to knowing what to say. 

If you know what to say and you teach your children what you are going to say, then your parenting becomes predictable. And predictable parenting means that your children's anxiety levels will go down, their performance levels will go up. 

They'll have greater security and you'll have more of an opportunity to bond because you won't be fighting over details in a conversation when you're just trying to solve a simple problem. Principle number 5. Probably one of the most important parts of self-government is calmness. In fact, you can't really be a self-governed person if you're out of control. 

Those 2 things do not go together. So, calmness. Are you calm? Do you even know what real calm feels like? You should experiment with that. What does calmness feel like to you? And when you are about ready to lose your calmness, what does that feel like? For me, it feels like this ball in the pit of my stomach that just kind of constricts. 

It feels like if I hit something, it'll be better. If I yell these words that are popping into my head and shoot them out like darts at people then I'll be relieved. That's not calm, right? So, what do you do to transition from being the kind of person who might have this tension building up, maybe you want to run away or maybe you want to attach to the kind of person who's just calm? Who has a calm voice, face, and body yourself. Who's not worried about the outcome of a particular interaction with their children. There are ways that you can find that calmness. 

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