Keep Discipline Future-Focused

When a youngster makes a mistake or does something wrong, focus on the future, not on the past. It is counterproductive to harp on past unsuccessful behaviors.

For example, if you focus on the past, it might sound like, “You should have been more careful!” However, if you focus on the future, it would sound like, “What can we think of so that it won’t happen again?” (Notice the use of the collaborative “we,” rather than “you.”)

The past cannot be changed. If you talk about what was done wrong, the person will only resent it (and you) because the act cannot be undone. Focusing on the past will result in criticizing, blaming, complaining, threatening, or punishing—none of which are effective discipline techniques. In fact, any of these will result in stress and negative feelings on the part of everyone involved.

You promote responsible behavior so much more effectively if you communicate in terms of, “So let’s talk about what has been learned and how to do it better next time.”