Respectful Discipline: Part 3

Serious ConversationBy Abby Bordner

I am working with a Mother who commented that she wants “to be the leader that her children deserve.”  It was helpful for her to hear about “effective leadership” as I outlined in part 2 because her experience with discipline as a child had been scary and lonely.  She didn’t want to do that to her children so she had essentially had no discipline at all. But her children were still misbehaving and seemed to be needing more from her. She realized she wasn’t being the leader that her children needed to feel safe and trusting. And, it was such a relief for her to learn that discipline does NOT have to be rage, punishment and isolation.

If you remember in part 1, discipline is a teaching or a lesson about behavior, interaction and/or attitude that you want your child to learn. For example, if your child is failing his math class, parents want their child to learn it is important to perform well in school and value their education. Or if your toddler is hitting his friends, you want him to learn that you treat others with respect. So, what’s the best way to teach our children?

As with many other topics I’ve covered in parenting, the first things your child learns is WHAT YOU DO. Yes, it’s true. Our children learn by watching us, much more than by what we say. So, if we want them to learn to be respectful, we must be respectful. If we want them to learn to manage their emotions, we have to manage our emotions. Do you see what I mean? So, hopefully that has been clear in parts 1 and 2. Our children are looking to US to see what the best way to act is.

So, here’s my recommendations when it’s time to impart your values and teach a lesson. I’ve got some communication skills that will help our children understand their wrong-doing and problem solve about how to make it right.

First, tell your child specifically what is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that you’re failing math. It is unacceptable that you’re home later than we asked you to be here. It is unacceptable that you hit your friend. Even though it may be obvious to you, it helps to state the offending behavior clearly. Especially because it helps us parents focus on the behavior that has made us angry, not that our child is terrible or stubborn.

Second, tell your child what you expect. Be specific. It helps your child to understand what your values and expectations are.  Again, even if it feels obvious to you, state it. Your child will see where they’ve made a mistake and why it is important to you. I expect you to work hard in school to make the best grades possible.  I expect you to be kind to other people. This is a “leader quality”. A leader can state clearly what their goal is and it is very reassuring and helps our children trust us.

Then, the next step may be difficult. But DO IT. Your next step is to wait. Yes, wait. Wait for your child to respond. When you pause and wait, you are offering connection. You are creating a space for your child to respond. This is respectful! This intentional pause allows your child to hear why you’re disappointed and what is expected. Your child may feel remorse or want to talk. Your child may want to cry and climb into your lap. Your child may sit still and be quiet. Respond to your child in a loving way that invites connection. This is the moment your child needs connection. S/he wants to know that they, personally, have not failed you. Be available and wait. Respond lovingly. This connection that happens in this moment is a VERY important step to support your child.

And, lastly, ask your child how s/he can make it right. Ask them to problem solve about how they can correct their mistake. Support them in making an apology, cleaning a mess or taking care of something/ someone. This is an important opportunity for your kids to learn how to make amends. Wow! What an important lesson and skill; how can you go back and correct your mistakes? The fascinating thing is… the more children learn how to do this, the less they engage in behavior that hurts other people. The process of making amends helps children learn how their behavior affects other people. And, this is in line with our goals for raising healthy children!

I hope this helps you understand discipline from a new perspective. Our children need communication and connection to work through misbehavior. It looks different than isolation, punishment and shame, doesn’t it? And, it is consistent with our long term goals for who we want our children to be. DO YOUR BEST for your children!

What can you do differently TODAY that will benefit your child?

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Leave A Reply (7 comments so far)


  1. Angie
    3 years ago

    I love this Abby! It’s so clear and concise and makes a lot of sense. I need to write down these steps on a note card and review them so I can remember when I’m in a situation where I need to teach and correct my children.Thank you!


    • Abby
      3 years ago

      Thank you, Angie! I appreciate your feedback. I think you’ll find that it gets easier the more you use these steps. Eventually, it’s like second nature.


  2. Shana
    3 years ago

    I love this as I definitely feel that my attempts at discipline up to this point have been less than successful! My biggest question is how to do this in a child who won’t stop long enough to listen to your message? I seem to have to ask my son to stop 4 or 5 times and he still doesn’t listen. I feel like we will never have that connection moment because he tunes me out the minute I try to talk to him about why he is being corrected.


    • Abby
      3 years ago

      Thank you for your comment, Shana! My guess is your son is under 7 years old? It’s hard when he’s always moving and doesn’t seem affected by your attempts to correct his behavior. The younger your children are, the more simple it has to be. Under 7 years, keep it to briefly describing the behavior, the expectation then just redirect his behavior. As he matures, you’ll be able to have the third step. Best wishes!


  3. Shana
    3 years ago

    Yes, he’s only 5. I just feel like I can’t even get through to him on what he is doing wrong without physically stopping him. It gets so frustrating and my husband especially resorts to yelling which accomplishes nothing. I don’t know how to teach him to respect us. The only thing that helps me know I’m not a terrible parent is that his twin doesn’t act this way. She is much more receptive to correction.


  4. Melissa
    2 years ago

    Abby this is awesome! Thanks for giving me a vision of what loving and effective discipline can look like. Now, to practice. Really appreciate your approach!


    • Abby Bordner
      2 years ago

      Thanks so much for your comment, Melissa :-) I’m glad you found this useful and I hope it changes those tough interactions we sometimes face.
      Good luck!