Am I a Bad Parenting because I don’t know how to Discipline my Kids?

I’ve had many clients ask me if they’re bad parents just because they don’t have a clue how to effectively discipline their children.  I always answer with a chuckle as if every parent who couldn’t discipline is bad than there sure are a lot of lousy parents out there.  

Not knowing how to discipline children is extremely common.  How would you know how to do it if you haven’t had children before?  Yes, some of it is common sense but a lot is training and practice.  I learned how to discipline kids by babysitting and volunteering in daycare centres when I was about 13.  I was always put with the challenging kids as enjoyed figuring out how to handle them.  I used a combination of leadership and fun which I carried right through all the kids/teens I worked with through out the years and certainly while raising my own two kids.  

So if you don’t know how to discipline, then you can learn how to do it.  Discipline is what leads to self-discipline.  Kids aren’t born with self-discipline, it’s up to us to teach then, that’s why disciplining them is so important. 

You can’t effectively discipline without your children’s respect, but once you have it discipline is approximately:

99% positive encouragement and 1% punishment  (if even that)

So what if you’re currently at 50% and 50%, or maybe even worse?  How long does it take to get respect?  That depends on 2 things:

  • the age of your children
  • your willingness to replace old habits with new ones

I’ve had clients who saw huge changes in just 2 days and others who needed several months to get things sorted out.  It’s all up to you and how quickly you can change your parenting style.  You don’t need to change everything, often it’s something really small that you’re not even aware of that needs adjusting.

What you say and how you say it are extremely important.  Here’s a good example of how NOT to talk to a 6 year old who is consistently cheeky and defiant:

“Why are you always so difficult?  What’s wrong with you?  Do you want to have media blackout for the next month?!” 

A better way:

“You know it’s not okay to be cheeky so there’ll be no media tonite.  But instead, how about we play a board game?”

You’re replacing a negative situation with a positive one.  Family games nights are bonding and fun.  Media blackout is the consequence for being cheeky but that’s it, forgive and forget.  Move on and replace the negative with a positive.  

So how do you handle it if your child flips out over media blackout and throws the board game across the room?  You completely ignore it, let them work it out on their own.  You are calm, silent and disengaged.  

Of course there’s a lot more to it but that’s the basic premise.  You lay down the law, follow through and don’t get pulled into any dialogue explaining yourself.  If you allow yourself to be pulled into conversations whereby you’re explaining your authority … you’ve just lost it.  

Check out how to get your kids to do what you want.  It’s my “As Soon As Method”.  

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

Note:  Don’t forget to sign up to my Newsletter to get your FREE “3 Step Parenting Plan” which will help you get started with Discipline.  Just to go the top right of the page.

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.

Parenting Advice: Sons at War

Here is my parenting column from The Sunday Province.  This is the last column as The Province are going away from the parenting section altogether.  I’ll sure miss hearing from the readers.

Q: My kids are at it again: fight fight fight! You’ve said in previous columns to separate fighting siblings but that didn’t work with our boys (12 and 10). After a week of keeping them separate we all went away for the weekend and they just about killed each other in the back seat. We are very strict parents who would love to have fun as a family but there is never an opportunity to do so as the boys just can’t stop fighting. What now?

A: Putting your warring sons in a confined space after being separated for a week is like putting two lions in a cage together. I wouldn’t expect the lions or your boys to get along.

Separating fighting siblings is my first recommendation but not the only one. Try getting them to work toward a common goal. This goal can either be the return of privileges they’ve lost due to fighting or some type of special reward. You said you’re strict so I assume you’ve already taken away privileges. If not, just go with the reward option.

You decide on the reward. It has to be something they both want and don’t make it something too over-the-top.

Maybe it’s a new video game. If they can stop fighting long enough to earn the game, then that game will be a great privilege to take away after future fights.

So, here’s what you do to get them to earn this video game, or whatever reward you’ve decided upon. You tell them if they can work together to get some chores done, without fighting, they will get a new video game.

Most siblings fight to get their parents’ attention so I suggest you work hard to incorporate fun times into your family’s schedule. Have weekly family fun times like hiking, biking or even playing board games on a rainy day. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate – it’s about time together just having fun.

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach (Email:

“Child Models” – Global News

Here is my segment on Global Morning News (Vancouver) about Child Models.  It’s a follow-up to a radio segment and previous article.

Notice during my interview with Sophie I was temporarily speechless.  It was when she commented that the model’s mom thinks there’s nothing wrong with having her 10 year old portrayed in such a sexual way.  First time I’ve ever been rendered silent, LOL.

What do you think?  10 year old modeling in Vogue too much or just fine?

Lisa Bunnage


Say “No” to 12 year old Tattoo

The column in the Sunday Province was about a young girl getting a tattoo.  NO way should a 12 year old be allowed to get a tattoo.  It’s a permanent life choice she’d be making and it’s up to her parents to make sure she waits until she’s an adult.

The comments I received about this column were all in favour of my opinions (believe me, that doesn’t always happen, LOL) on this subject as she’s just too young.

Happy Parenting,