Done With Diligence

Trouble staying consistent with discipline?  An If-Then Behavior Chart can help reform your approach OVERNIGHT, and it can help Mom and Dad stay on the same page day in and day out!

If-Then Behavior Chart with 3 columns

Why Staying Consistent with Discipline is Hard

Kids have good days and bad days, and so do moms and dads.  But if everybody can maintain a consistent approach to expectations and consequences, a much more stable, calm environment is fostered, and everyone’s day is better! So we know the key is consistency, but what gets in the way?  I’ve found a few culprits, so let’s take a look.

  • Mom’s Circumstances–  I’ve found that if I’m busy or distracted or tired, I’m much less likely to follow through with consistent discipline.  If my brain is already juggling multiple tasks at once, and then a child begins to argue or pitch a fit, I’m often tempted to do whatever it takes to de-escalate the current situation fast, even if I know it’s not the best long-term solution. My exhausted brain focuses on, “Just make it stop so we can move on!” What a short-sighted way to handle things, right?
  • Forgetting What Was Threatened– Another culprit is that I forget what I threatened as the consequence for that behavior.  I have 4 kids, so that means there are 4 sets of behaviors I’m working on at any given point in time. So, say I know this is the 8th time this week I’ve told my daughter that we don’t pitch fits, but what did I say would happen the next time she pitched a fit? If I can’t remember, I’ll probably either snap at her to stop or ignore her fit altogether. Not very helpful OR very loving, huh?
  • Mom and Dad Haven’t Communicated– Sometimes a different parent is around when a behavior needs to be addressed.  What if Mom requires a time out for pitching fits, but Dad gives a spanking when he hears the fit?  It can be very confusing for a kid to not know what kind of consequence to expect.  And, in some cases, you may end up with a “good cop, bad cop” situation with different parents’ styles of discipline. Eeeek! Wouldn’t it be better to have pre-determined consequences so both Mom and Dad can offer consistent discipline in the same way, every single time?
  • Expected Behaviors Haven’t Been Outlined– Sometimes we think kids know better than to ___, but have we really talked about it?  Have we explained why the behavior is wrong and what we should do instead?  Have we pointed them to God’s word to consider what He expects of them? Maybe, or maybe not…

Can you relate to any of the above failures? I certainly can! But before hanging your head in defeat, let’s talk about a simple, If-Then Behavior Chart that can help transform your approach to discipline and finally stay consistent!

How an If-Then Chart Can Help

Imagine this…What if your family had just 7-8 expectations, clearly outlined them, and reviewed them often?  What if Mom and Dad talked about them ahead of time, decided on appropriate consequences BEFORE the heat of the moment, and recorded them in the chart? And what if each time there was a misbehavior, it was promptly, calmly, and fairly addressed, all while pointing your kids’ back to God’s Word?  Sound too good to be true?  Just keeping reading…

  • No Thinking On-the-Spot Required– Because the chart is prepared in advance, there is no thinking required in the heat of the moment when discipline is needed.  Mom and Dad find a quiet time, maybe after the kids are in bed, to brainstorm.  They consider the common misbehavior problems and decide on appropriate consequences that can truly help to correct them.  Then they record them on the chart.  These consequences can range from time-out, to loss of privileges, to issuing apologies, and even spankings.  But regardless of which consequence you deem appropriate, you can avoid punishing your children out of anger simply because you’ve thought through the issue BEFORE the trouble arose.  All that’s left in the moment is the follow-through.
  • Remembering What You Said Before is Not Required– You’ve recorded the misbehavior problem and its consequence clearly on the chart and posted the chart in a central location for the whole family to see. So, no surprises for the kids, and no remembering for the parents. If you’ve talked about making sure we don’t provoke our siblings to anger, and then your son is clearly provoking your daughter, you simply and calmly tell him to meet you at the chart.  You point out the misbehavior, read the associated Scripture to remind him what God says about provoking others, then point out the appropriate consequence. 
  • Communicating about Behavior is Thorough– As mentioned before, Mom and Dad have already clearly communicated about the If-Then Behavior Chart and recorded their agreed-upon plans.  It doesn’t matter which parent takes the child to the chart to address the current behavior, both parents are on the same page.  Being on the same page is good for the marriage and it’s healthy for the children to see.  No “good cop, bad cop” parenting here.  Mom and Dad become a unified team that are working to help their children overcome misbehaviors and conduct themselves in a way that’s pleasing to the Lord.  What a blessing for all! Not to mention, the language used to address the behavior becomes consistent across the whole family.  One parent may call it a “temper tantrum” while the other calls it “pitching a fit”.  The chart helps bring a single, common term to define the behavior, making it easier to get everyone on board.
  • Expectations are Clear– Sometimes we can ask too much of our children. We can have 1,000 little rules that we expect them to remember and follow.  But with an If-Then Behavior Chart, we consistently point them back to the same handful of expectations.  The expectations are the same for all of the children (perhaps in slightly different applications depending on the age and needs of the child).  Ambiguity and favoritism are removed from the equation, and it becomes much more do-able for children to rise up to the outlined expectations.

If any of these struggles sound familiar, give the If-Then Behavior Chart approach a try in your home!  It brings consistency to managing discipline almost instantly.  And just in case you are wondering if this approach might be too harsh, I’d urge you to consider your current methods.  If you find yourself yelling or ignoring or shaming or punishing more/ less severely depending on how your day has gone, then compare and contrast those responses to this approach.  (By the way, I’ve been guilty of all of the above, so no judgement…just suggestions!)  When executed consistently, the If-Then Behavior approach provides a calm, loving, predictable pattern that can really transform discipline in your home.

If-Then Behavior Chart with 3 columns

Want a printable copy of my If-Then Behavior Chart? You can jump straight to the chart here.

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For more Christian parenting ideas, please visit my Raise Them with Diligence page.

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