Before I became a parent, I had the vision of an ideal child in my head. One who is kind, respectful, obedient, responsible, and who understands that he is not the centre of the universe. But when my child was born and grew into a strong-willed toddler, I realised I lacked the skills to help get him there. I yo-yo-ed between being an authoritative parent and a permissive parent. One moment, barking orders without explanations and the next, giving in to his demands when he started throwing tantrums.

So if you feel frustrated that your methods are not working either, I feel you!

I started reading books and attending courses to understand the mindset of a child and what disciplinary actions I could take. Here’s what I learned from Dr. Kevin Leman’s book, “Making Children Mind, Without Losing Yours.

What is Reality Discipline?

A term coined by Dr Kevin Leman to explain a consistent, decisive and respectful way for parents to love and discipline their children. This method does not focus on punishment, but it emphasises natural consequences that teaches a child expected behaviour within your family. In his book, Dr Kevin Leman explains 7 principles behind the Reality Discipline concept.

  1. Establish a healthy authority over your children.
    Children need to understand that parents are the ones in charge, and not them. As parents, we must not swing towards the permissive parent style, allowing your kids to rule over you, or bending backwards to meet all their needs. Our children need our boundaries and guidelines to be firm so they will feel safe within the family structure.
  2. Hold your children accountable for their actions
    If your child gets into trouble at school for something she did, we must let her face the consequences herself. We shouldn’t be making excuses on her behalf. Doing this will only prolong your child’s irresponsible behaviour.
  3. Let reality be the teacher
    If your child refuses to go to bed early and has a hard time waking up the next day, the reality is that he’ll feel really tired the next day. Your child might not even be awake to eat breakfast the next day. Instead of packing up breakfast in the car, let him go to school feeling hungry and tired. You might have to deal with some crankiness but at the end of the day, use that experience as a teachable moment when you talk about it later.
  4. Let your actions match your words
    Many kids are trained to ignore our words because we sometimes swing between a yes and a no, depending on the situation or mood. If we say, “Ok, I’ll let you go this time round, but don’t let that happen again…”, which speaks louder? Our words or actions? Actions win all the time.
  5. Stick to your guns, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot
    Kids can come up with a million excuses on why you are being unfair, but we’ll need to stick to our decision after we’ve made it. However, when it comes to important decisions like which school to go to, it’s wise to make the right choice even if your child is begging to go to a school the rest of her friends are in.
  6. Relationships come before rules and activities
    The relationship with our child needs to come first above all else. Our children are only young once, so we need to make time to really understand who they are. It is not easy, but spending time with each child individually does so much to their little emotional hearts.
  7. Live by your values
    If your child watched you today, what would they learn? Our children learn by observing how we behave in front of other people and your spouse. You are their role model.

The foundation of the reality discipline concept lies in these 3 words – OBEY, AUTHORITY and LOVING DISCIPLINE. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep on going.

The content of this post are shared from Dr Kevin Leman’s book, “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours”.