Discipline Lessons That Last

Convey Your Values

At its core, your mission in correcting misbehavior is to raise good kids who grow up to be good people. Though we all agree on the basics -- honesty, respect for others, and kindness -- each family varies in its emphasis. My husband and I are nuts about safeguarding other people's feelings; Lisa Brinkley is a stickler for honesty. "What values do you want your child to learn?" Dr. Severe asks. "That's part of discipline."

Why Conveying Your Values Works

These days, kids' heads are filled with undesirable messages from the media. "Many of the messages are 'Adults are stupid'; 'It's funny to be disrespectful'; 'Why wait, buy it now,' " Dr. Elias says. "So we have to be more clear more often about the message we're sending to kids."

How To Do It

To pump up the volume on your values, cut back on the white noise -- the background nagging that seems to go on all day. "Successful parents don't dwell on the little things," Dr. Severe notes.

Align your discipline methods with your values. If you're trying to convey that family members have a responsibility to take care of each other, think twice before paying your kids to do basic chores.

In the end, our children will internalize our values, both good and bad. And that, finally, is our goal -- to move our children from discipline to self-discipline. Bad days notwithstanding, Henry at 5 is less aggressive than Henry at 3. And someday, I'm sure, he'll be able to stop himself from misbehaving. Along the way, his father and I happily accept the assignment of holding his hand -- and, occasionally, pulling it out of his best friend's hair.


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