Helpful Articles •
• • •
Ending a Discipline Time with The Positive Conclusion
Sometimes parents feel that once they've
given a consequence for their child's misbehavior, then
their job is finished. They've done their duty and fulfilled
their responsibility. Unfortunately, there may be tension
left in the relationship between parent and child, children
feel guilty, defensive, or may even plan revenge. True
repentance may not have taken place. This leaves room for
anger or even bitterness to linger. Discipline is not complete
until the relationship between the parent and child is
restored. The child needs to understand what was wrong,
but also feel the unconditional love and acceptance from
The secret to constructive discipline is a Positive Conclusion.
The Positive Conclusion is a discussion you have with your
child after a consequence has been given and after the
child has settled down. Use the Positive Conclusion every
time you need to correct or redirect your child. Talk about
the problem and what went wrong; then talk about what could
happen differently next time.
During the early stages of development (ages two to eight),
the Positive Conclusion can consist of three questions
and a statement, giving children a helpful pattern each
time they're disciplined. Although two- and three-year-olds
may not initially be able to respond appropriately, it's
helpful to begin this pattern when they're young. You may
need to walk preschoolers through the process in order
for them to benefit from it. Four- to eight-year-olds will
quickly learn to expect these questions and a statement
and be able to learn from the experience. As children grow
older, you may want to put aside the structure and look
more to the principles behind it.
At any age it is helpful to spend some time discussing
the problem in order to end the discipline time on a positive
note. The Positive Conclusion isn't a time of interrogation.
It's important to express love, forgiveness and acceptance
during this discussion. A closer look at these three questions
and a statement will show the benefit each one offers in
making discipline times constructive learning experiences.
The first question is, "What did you do wrong?''
Ask it in a gentle way, not accusing. This allows the child
to admit personal sin. It's important for the child to
take responsibility for his or her part of the problem
and demonstrate sorrow for it. If others were involved,
as they often are, a child should not excuse an offense
by blaming someone else. The sins of others don't justify
wrong actions. It's probably not uncommon for two children
to come to you arguing and fighting, blaming the other
child for the problem. "He hit me" "He grabbed my book."
Almost always, both children are wrong and could have responded
differently. It takes two selfish children to have a fight.
A common mistake parents often make is to engage in dialog
about the whole situation: who else was wrong, and whether
it was fair or not, or why such things happen. Those discussions
may be helpful, but you'll get much further if you start
by asking 'What did you do wrong'' and allow the child
to take responsibility for his or her own part of the problem.
Sometimes children say they don't know what they did wrong.
If they truly don't know, it's okay to prompt them. If,
on the other hand, they are trying to avoid responsibility,
it's often helpful to give them time alone until they are
ready to own their part of the problem.
A second question, "Why was that wrong?''
should be used to address heart issues directly. Point
out the character qualities like pride, selfishness, anger,
or disrespect. Help the child learn that behavior is only
a symptom of something deeper. Parents and children see
the behavior but God looks on the heart. If Sally grabbed
the book, Karen still needs to learn to respond with kindness
Most children, at first, have a hard time understanding
why their actions are wrong. The Positive Conclusion gives
you an opportunity to gently teach, without preaching.
Help your child see that a particular response was unkind
or disrespectful. Discipline involves teaching.
With young children you might give three
rules: obey, be kind, and show respect. When you ask "Why
was that wrong?" the child has three choices, "I wasn't
obeying," or "It wasn't kind," or "It wasn't respectful."
The "Why'' question and its answers provide opportunities
for parents to teach children about the ramifications of
wrong choices. The book of Proverbs teaches that parents
are a source of insight and discernment. Naiveté and immaturity
lead one to do foolish things. Actions are foolish when
the negative results are not considered. Parents can use
discipline times to teach children to anticipate the consequences
of their actions.
Once a child realizes why the behavior is
wrong, the third question helps clarify what should be
done instead. "What are you going to do differently next
time?'' focuses on a better way to respond. The wise parent
uses this question to continue teaching. By communicating
the right response verbally, your child will begin to see
the difference and learn to change. This often takes time
and repeated discipline sessions, but that's OK. Children
learn through repetition.
Finally, always end with an affirmation.
A helpful statement is, "OK, go ahead and try again." This
says "I believe in you. Yes, you're going to make mistakes
and there are consequences, but we can debrief and learn
together." Give children the encouragement to try again.
Everyone makes mistakes, and the best response is to stop,
think about it, and then try again.
The Positive Conclusion is important every time you discipline.
It is the secret to making your discipline times constructive
experiences. The Positive Conclusion is an essential part
of the discipline process. Going through the three questions
and a statement provides a framework which allows children
to admit that they were wrong and determine what to do
right next time. The Positive Conclusion gives an opportunity
for you to communicate your trust and faith in your children
as you tell them to go out and try again.
After the Positive Conclusion, the child
may need to complete restitution or reconciliation in order
to obtain a clear conscience. Unresolved conflict hinders
a clear conscience. A child needs to have the opportunity
to say, "I was wrong, please forgive me," and then feel
forgiven. The child may need to pick up the books that
were thrown in anger or comfort a sibling that was offended
and then feel the relationship restored. Ending discipline
times on a positive note will do a tremendous amount for
your relationship with your child and for your child's
self esteem. As you begin to teach your children how to
respond to their own weaknesses and failings in a constructive
way, you will be giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.
This material is taken from the book, Home
Improvement, The Parenting Book You Can Read to Your Kids. The book contains many practical ideas for helping children
change their hearts, not just their behavior.