Dads (and moms) are often frustrated by the “discipline issue.” Instead of clashing about problematic behavior, try these tips for creating respectful guidelines to help with getting past the chore wars.
- Pick your battles. Ask yourself: “How important will this issue be one year from now?” When you start getting irate, take time and space to breathe and think things through, rather than jumping into a battle that may end up making more work for you both over time.
- Catch her being good. Positive reinforcement is very powerful, so be sure to notice (and acknowledge) when she is respectful, stands up for herself appropriately, thinks of others, and displays the diverse qualities and values that make for a good person.
- Never underestimate the power of your parental attention to steer her in the right direction. She hungers for your attention. And listen! It increases the odds that she’ll respond positively to you.
- Remember the ultimate goal is for her to learn self-discipline that will serve her well after you’re out of the picture. “Punishment” is only one gizmo in the discipline toolbox—and often the least effective. Agreed-upon expectations and routines—with natural consequences for mistakes and missteps—are the most successful strategies. With younger daughters, try “playful parenting.” Be direct and respectful, but try to offset her embarrassment and help her learn with humor.
- Follow through. Disciplining is sometimes uncomfortable, but we have to do it anyway. If you set a consequence and she doesn’t respond, don’t brush things off by saying: “Well, I know she meant to” or “I know she’s sorry inside.” Kids don’t want to admit they were wrong anymore than we do, but we all have to learn how to do it. When you show that you respect her for admitting mistakes, you demonstrate the kind of unconditional love she craves and needs from you.
- Father the best you can when she is with you. If you’re a live-away dad, don’t let her off the hook or try to “make up for” family problems by suspending expectations and limits. Be the dad she can talk to and trust to support her—even when she makes mistakes.
- Enjoy each other! The most effective discipline grows from a foundation of trust. Trust can’t come if the majority of your father-daughter interactions center on discipline. Dedicate time to spend together having fun, talking, being with family, or just quietly enjoying each other.
Joe Kelly is publisher of Daughters and cofounder of Dads & Daughters (www.joekelly.org).