Discipline and Choices

by Don Dinkmeyer, Jr., Ph.D., STEP author

Many parents come to STEP groups looking for the “discipline spray”. This tool, when properly applied, solves every discipline challenge. I’ve only half-kidded parents that when the FDA approves this substance, I will make sure we include it with every Parent’s Handbook!

Discipline is the number one concern of most parents. If this is the biggest concern, STEP should address it in the first chapter, right?

Yes and No.

No – the first chapter of the book is not discipline – focused. In STEP and Teen, the first chapter teaches the goals of misbehavior.  Early Childhood STEP chapter one discusses the challenges when raising a young child – temperament, differences in development, the power of expectations. EC STEP moves to purposes of behavior in the second chapter.

Yes -If you know the purpose of the misbehavior, you can begin to discipline. We’ve designed STEP specifically to “avoid” discipline at the start. If we want to solve discipline challenges, we want to have strong tools to solve the concerns. Understanding “why” the child or teen misbehaves is an excellent start to correcting misbehavior.

Look for choices as one of the first tools of effective parental discipline.

Choices are the Answer

Let’s look at a typical discipline challenge. Parent A wants child B to do a specific chore. B refuses. Now what?

  1. What is the purpose of the behavior? Is it power, revenge?
  2. How can we use choices as the key to effective discipline?

Most parents attempt a “verbal persuasion” along the lines of “NO” or “No, because I say so!” This is often not effective, and children will usually protest or ask the inviting question, “Why?”

Recognize that choices begin with the parent – not the child. Mom can choose to not respond to the “Why?” invitation. Many parents do not see a choice in their response to the misbehavior. As STEP leaders, when we teach parents about choices, a new road toward effective discipline is opened.

I’ll discuss more about discipline and choices in the next newsletter. In the meantime, when you get questions about discipline, think choices!

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