SummaryFour homeschooling veterans with different points of view share what has worked in their families when it comes to the essential element of discipline.
Raising Competent, Confident Children
I look back on the decades raising my twelve kids with great joy and satisfaction, remembering our happy home life. We had an occasional show of temper, a little backtalk from time to time, and some slacking off, but day-to-day life was marked by good humor, lively sibling banter, laughter, and sincere affection. My kids were respectful to adults, worked hard, and accomplished much.
What was our secret?
The funny thing is there was no secret. Dad and I had grown up at a time when these things were expected—just usual. We did not read books or search for enlightened ideas of parenting, we just did what generation of parents, many with just grade school educations, had done before us. Here are a few ideas.
First, we have a simple schedule that is set in stone. Wake up, breakfast, school time, breaks, lunch, playtime, and supper all occur on a schedule. The kitchen is closed all other times, so don’t ask. And bedtime is non-negotiable.
Second, everyone chips in and helps. With every job. In times past, little kids helped haul wood and water, cared for livestock, and labored in the fields. It is not too much to expect them to make their beds, put their laundry away, and run the vacuum.
There is no reason they cannot follow a recipe and make a meal every so often. Before they leave your home, your children should be competent at every task both inside and outside the house.
Third (could be fourth, fifth, and sixth, too!) do not argue with your children! Do not explain your reasoning for every tiny rule or request. That is exhausting for both parent and child.
These rules fostered virtues, including a strong work ethic and self-control, which in turn produced competent adults who were confident in their own abilities. I feel our efforts are being rewarded as I see my kids raise their own children much the same way.
Ginny Seuffert, Chicago, IL
Teach Them Well and Often
One important thing to remember is discipline means “to teach,” not “to punish.” This is an important distinction and mindset when dealing with children. We always want to treat others, including our kids, the way Christ deals with us.
I went to my kids (ages 15, 13, 11, 9, and 7) and asked them what has worked in teaching them, what didn’t, what they have learned. Here is what they said:
1. It helped when I modeled the behavior I was expecting. It was much easier to follow my lead than it was to acquiesce to my orders. They see me pray my rosary, exercise, make them dinner every day.
2. Build rapport. No one likes a drill sergeant, and our children are not (yet) in the military. Relationships are key to your child understanding that you come from a place of love, even when they can’t see or understand it.
3. Teach them well and often. My kids understood from the time they could stand up that they were a needed, loved, and vital part of the family. I would have toddlers “help” me switch the laundry, or give them a child-sized broom. I taught them how to do the chores I wanted them to do, I taught them how to study. I communicated clearly what I expect from them, and I asked questions to make sure they understand.
4. Hold them accountable with logical consequences. We once had an issue where a child skipped a subject for several weeks, and I somehow missed it. The child lost all outside playtime and screens until the work was completed.
5. Acknowledge the effort, even when it is not perfect. They will mess up. My family is far from perfect. Every day we adjust and reorganize and try again. But I want my kids to say, “I messed up. I need to go to mom and dad so they can help me right my ship.” Not, “I messed up. I need to hide as long as possible because mom and dad will kill me.”
Kristin Brown, Virginia
Behaviors Have Real Consequences
Having well-disciplined children means raising children who can manage their actions and reactions, follow rules and fulfill responsibilities. Well-disciplined children make homeschooling easier and family life, generally, a more pleasant endeavor.
Of course, even well-disciplined children have bad days, but the difference is that they understand their poor choices and know that behaviors have real consequences. I cannot count the number of times doctors, nurses, receptionists, waitresses, and strangers have complimented our family because our children are able to sit patiently, speak kindly, act courteously, and eat without creating a mess or a drama.
Children who are given set responsibilities and specific expectations know their parameters. My children have assigned daily chores. They know mealtimes are not catering events and good table manners are required. They understand that Mass and adoration are times for quietly sitting still.
Having clear consequences which are consistently enforced means children have the freedom to either follow the rules or accept the punishment. In our house, screen time comes only after chores have been done and schoolwork is complete, dessert follows a fully eaten dinner, and playdates and parties depend on cooperation.
My children know they are free to balk at the spinach on their plate, shove a sibling, fuss in church, or speak rudely, but they most often prefer the benefits of behaving well, as opposed to the punishments for not.
Additionally, well-disciplined children grow up to be self-motivated students, hard-working employees, and responsible adults, who understand choices always have positive and negative consequences and they have the power to choose accordingly.
Tara Brelinsky, North Carolina
Model Good Habits
Is having disciplined children important to you?
Well, the apple never falls far from the tree.
Having disciplined children first calls for disciplined parents. Anytime I have wanted to work on something I see lacking in my children, I must first look at myself.
After twenty-four-plus years of motherhood, I hope I have at least improved myself to the point that my children have a clear image of what a disciplined person should be. I have learned that being on a schedule has helped with discipline.
When things are done at a certain time-wake up-prayers-Mass-school-activities-mealtimes-bedtimes-then the expectations of what the kids should be doing at certain times of the day are clear.
Also, we review habits, and virtues, and where each child can improve if necessary. And I always try to praise my children when they do things well so that they know what is expected of them.
Susan Brock, Charlotte, NC