Both parents and teachers wonder what is the best discipline for children. For many adults, doling out punishments in the form of time-outs, principal referrals, or grounding is the norm. Those who know my work realize that I disagree with these approaches. So that then begs the question: “What is the best discipline for children?”
Based on what people have read about the Discipline Without Stress methodology, some may conclude that I am against all punishments. This is a wrong assumption. I have no problem with ADULTS using punishments for justice, fairness, or safety.
With young people, however, the problem is not the punishment or the consequence for inappropriate behavior (levels A and B); rather, it is the question of WHO decides and imposes the punishment or the consequence—THE ADULT OR THE YOUNGSTER HER/HIMSELF.
Adults certainly do have to guide children to make appropriate decisions regarding their behavior. And yes, consistency in discipline is important. However, IMPOSING the same consequence (punishment) on all young people is the least fair approach. For example, if one sibling or student is continually bullying another, is imposing the same consequence on both fair?
Also, when a consequence is IMPOSED—be it called “logical” or “natural”—young people are deprived of ownership in deciding the specific consequence. A more effective and fairer approach is to ELICIT a consequence or a procedure that will help redirect impulses. In other words, let the child determine the punishment. This is easily accomplished by ELICITING the consequence from the youngsters.
This approach satisfies the consistency requirement; it is in each person’s best interest and is fairer than imposing the same consequence on all parties involved in unacceptable behavior. Is it punishment? Yes, but it’s punishment in a way that enables the child to take responsibility rather than just serve out a sentence.