Constructive discipline

You might hear the word discipline and immediately think of something negative, but discipline is not about punishment, it is about teaching. Constructive discipline involves guiding your child’s behavior by meeting their emotional and psychological needs. What does this mean? It means we need to discipline while also caring for their emotional needs. Rather than fixating on the negative, positive discipline emphasizes the positive. The focus is on the behavior and not the child.

Self-responsibility is the culmination of self-esteem and self-discipline. A child demonstrates self-responsibility by accepting his or her obligations, doing what is right and accepting accountability for his or her actions.

Because children are now home for an extended time, it is the perfect opportunity to create an environment in your home that promotes positivity and builds responsibility.

Remember, there are no bad children—just bad behaviors that can be corrected through modeling and teaching our children better ways to tackle tough situations.

Tips for communicating with children:


Is there a time during the day when you can talk to your child one on one? Talking with your child helps strengthen your relationship and makes your child feel valued. Think about a time that is good for you and your child. Give your child your complete attention. Limit interferences such as texts or phone calls. Start the conversation but make your child the focal point. Let them guide where the conversation goes.


Rather than relying on what you already know about your child, listen to your child’s point of view to understand them better and learn something new. During your conversation, repeat what you hear from your child (“What I hear you saying is you prefer the Hulk to Ironman because the Hulk is stronger.”). Use “why” to allow your child to reflect and give a thoughtful response. Remember, the goal is to make your child feel valued and heard, and to build a relationship. Use this time to make note of your child’s interests. Think about ways to link their interests with learning.


If you are having a difficult conversation with your child, continue to respond with love and respect. Be aware of your feelings about the topic. Instead of criticizing or threatening your child, ask them what they need. Your goal is to maintain your composure. The more you listen, the more your child is likely to open up. Remember, you are your child’s teacher and this is a teaching moment.

Tips to build a self-responsible child:

  • Be a role model.
  • Show your children how you take personal responsibility by admitting when you are wrong, apologizing when you make a mistake, and being honest and consistent in your thoughts and actions.
  • Give children responsibility. There are household chores that even the youngest child can complete. Completing chores builds responsibility.
  • Build concern for others. Help children understand the importance of caring for others. Get a pet, volunteer, or let the child choose an activity in which the family gives back to the community.


Tips for praising your children, proven by science:

  • Notice and recognize your child’s efforts, strategies and good deeds. A 2018 study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology showed process praise can inspire kids to keep striving.
  • Use process praise versus person praise. Praising a child for what they have done by saying simple things such as “good job” instead of praise about who they are such as  “good boy”, help our children develop a growth mindset according to studies noted in this article.
  • Studies also show that “process criticism,” such as asking a child how they can do something better or differently after a mistake, has a more positive effect compared to responding with a criticism of the child such as “I am disappointed in how you handled that.” Be sure to encourage your child to come up with a solution when they face a challenge rather than verbalizing disappointment.

PRO TIP: Researchers in developmental psychology have found that tangible rewards like stickers are less effective in the long run. While sticker charts may work in the short term, they can interrupt the reason behind positive behaviors.

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