Teach your Kids to be Self-Disciplining

I chose the path of least resistance with parenting.  I taught my kids to be self-disciplining.

They understood from a very young age that everything was up to them.  They could be good and life would be great, or they could misbehave and have no TV, scrub the floor, etc.  They didn’t even blame me for this, they just disciplined themselves.  I remember my son was running late for school one morning and said, “Ugh, no video games for me tonite, sorry Mom.”

Yes, that’s right, he not only disciplined himself, but he apologized to me for running late.

He understood accountability.  Once your kids get that, you’re on easy street right through the teen years.  It’s wasn’t my fault if they couldn’t watch TV, it was theirs.  They never questioned the rules as saw them as fair and reasonable.

Now … if my rules were unreasonable, inconsistent and if I lost my temper, that wouldn’t have worked.  I was just the calm presence in all this, was just there to help them reason through things.  Never really told them what to do, just asked them what they thought they should do and they always came up with reasonable responses.  Sometimes they were too tough on themselves so I’d pull them back in a bit.  They were never not tough enough.  Interesting isn’t it?

When you put your trust in your children to do the right thing, that’s often what they do.  Give children more control over how their lives go they tend to be more mature, more accountable and just easier all round.

If you’re struggling with discipline, make sure your rules are fair and consistent.  Also, when they mess up, don’t harp on it.  Impose a consequence then suggest you all play a game together or something.  The consequence is the punishment, no need to keep reminding them they did something wrong.  That’s bordering on bullying.

Being fun, supportive and consistent is so important.  They’ll want to please you and dread disappointing you.

I guarantee this stuff works.  It’s all about you setting yourself as the calm leader.  No lectures, no yelling, no temper.  Always calm and reasonable.  Tell them how great they are, have trust in them … see what happens.

Lots more about how to Discipline here.

If you want my help navigating through this, check out my Coaching page. 

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

Note:  Don’t forget to sign up for my friend Karmen’s interview series on young adulthood.  I’m one of the many guests she’s interviewed and it’s all free.  My interview is all about parenting.

If your child is a Rotten Brat, it’s all your Fault

finger in faceBad News:   If your child is a Rotten Brat, it’s all your Fault

Good News:   If your Child is a Rotten Brat, it’s all your Fault

How your children act is a direct result of your parenting. That’s great news as it means that if they are rotten brats today you have the power to turn that around.

When coaching I often tell parents that the only other relationship that’s even close to parenting is a sports coach. A great coach explains the rules of the game, enforces the rules, and bonds with and encourages the kids.

Could you imagine a child arguing the rules of baseball?!:

I don’t wanna run around all the bases, I just

wanna run to 1st base then back home for a home run!!!!

Waaaaaaaa … !!!!”

Would a coach allow that? Of course not. Yet why on earth would you allow your children to argue bedtime, mealtime, manners?!

Kids who don’t respect their parents often respect other adults. Most of my clients say their children are great with the teacher and other adults, just horrible with them. That’s great news as it means they’re not really rotten, they just need leadership.

Children who don’t respect their parents don’t have self-respect. 

I don’t really believe that children are capable of being rotten brats. They’re just reacting to the lack of leadership in their lives. The reason I know this is that I was never asked to work with angels, I specialized in troubled kids/teens and never had a problem with any one of them. Sure, some took longer to come around, but they all did eventually.

All kids respond beautifully to strong leadership, love and boundaries.

So if you’re struggling with parenting now, please don’t put up with it any longer. I don’t want that for you OR your kids.  I have a free “3 Step Parenting Plan” included in my newsletters which outlines how to get started with discipline.  Just sign up at the top right of this page.  It’s simple and easy to use.  

Sign up to my Newsletter (above right) to get your FREE “3 Step Parenting Plan”.  I use this with all of my clients as a visual tool to get organized with discipline, rules, etc.

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

PARENTS: How To Turn Empty Threats Into Discipline That Works

Your 3 year old wrote all over the TV with a permanent marker.  You freak out and say:  “That’s it!!!  No more TV for the rest of your life!”

Not only do you not follow through with this ridiculous threat but you don’t replace it with any form of effective discipline.  Your child has just learned that you don’t mean what you say.  Now who’s in the driver seat?  I’ll give you a hint, it’s not you.    

So what do you do?  How do you handle your anger and teach your child a lesson?

In the moment it’s okay to get angry as you’re only human, but just say, “I’m not happy with you.  I’m going to cool down and think about how to handle this.   I’ll get back to you 15 minutes before bedtime tonight.”

This serves 3 purposes:  

  1. It gives you time to cool down and think about how to punish them.   
  2. It gives them time to sweat and worry throughout the day.
  3. It shows them you’re in control.

My kids used to hate it when I did that.  They’d beg me to punish them right then and there but it was far too much fun making them sweat.  Then by the time I punished them it was pretty minor as making them sweat all day was really punishment enough.    

So you don’t need to know what to do in the moment, just delay the discipline.  They’ll probably be perfect angels for the rest of the day to boot … WIN!!!  

So how do you discipline for writing on the TV?  You could keep it simple and just ban TV for 2 days.  Or you could do what I’d do and get creative with it.  I’d say something like:

“You can choose either of the following punishments:  

  • No TV for 2 days
  • No TV for 1 day but you also have to be my assistant for the day and help me do laundry, clean the bathroom, etc.”

Believe it or not, that creative style of punishment is bonding as you’re spending the day together.  If my kids were my slaves, ooops I mean assistants, for the day I’d make sure to include some fun activities.    


What stupid things have you threatened?  I once told my son I was going to throw the Playstation in the garbage because he put his white socks in the darks laundry hamper.  I swear I saw him look over at the calendar where I used to keep track of my menstrual cycles.  Yes, it was right in line with my crazy time of the month.  

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach



Stop using Time-Out

stopFirst of all, if Time-Out is working for your family, then keep using it.  But if you find yourself using it day after day after month … then stop.  That means it’s not changing anything long term, is just working in the moment.  If you have children who are consistently acting out, you need to change that behaviour, not just sideline it in the moment.

Here’s how Time-Out is usually done and why it’s so ineffective.  Johnny (5)  hits his little sister (3).  You say, “Johnny, go on the time-out mat for 5 minutes.”  He comes back after 5 minutes, is maybe made to say sorry to his sister, then that’s it.  Where’s the lesson?  He’s thinking, if I hit her I get sent away for 5 minutes … big deal.

Here’s what I suggest.  Johnny hits sister.  You calmly say, “Johnny, that was bad (don’t get caught up in useless dialogue, he knows it was bad, you don’t have to explain it).  You are cleaning up her toys this afternoon.  But if she teases you about it, she cleans up your toys.”

Now follow through with this as it’s worth the investment.  Johnny and sister have both learned that if they are mean to someone, they make it up to them by doing something nice for them.  Cleaning up someone else’s toys is a nice thing to do.  It will probably take more than 5 minutes and there is absolutely no negativity surrounding his cleaning, make it all cheery and positive as he’s already been punished, don’t keep going on about it.

Did you know that if you keep reminding children of their past bad behaviour it will become their identity?  Put it behind them and encourage good behaviour by saying such things as:

“I know you’re a sweetheart, you’ll do the right thing.”

“There’s nothing bad about you, you just sometimes slip-up.”

When I worked with troubled teens I was continually focusing on the positives about them.  They were continually arguing with me until eventually they started believing they were good people and started behaving as such.  That was teenagers who’d been trouble since they were young.  Their identity was “I’m Bad”.  Yet after just a few months of maybe 2 hours/week with them I was able to turn them around.  If that’s possible with long term troubled teens I saw very little of, then just imagine what you can do with your own younger children who you see all the time?!

This stuff works … I guarantee it, and so do many many families who’ve followed my simple, common sense methods.

This isn’t rocket science, it’s just a matter of understanding how children/teens interpret the world.  Adults, even those formally trained in child psychology often get caught up in trying to bring children up to our level of understanding.  That makes absolutely no sense to me.  Why on earth would we do that?!  It’s condescending and disrespectful.  It’s up to us to understand them, not the other way around.  Once we understand them … everything falls into place and there’s mutual respect cemented in the relationship.  It’s magic, well, I think it is but then I find this stuff fascinating :).

I just finished coaching sessions with a wonderful family in Dubai.  The father is an extremely articulate doctor and said, “Oh, I see, we want our children to “get it”.”  Woohoo … yes.  Sending children to a corner just teaches them to “get lost”.  I want them to be accountable and responsible so you don’t have to discipline them, they are self-disciplined.  I’m going to miss that family, they are fascinating people who are doing a great job parenting and their children are lucky to have them.