As a parent, in discipline, say what you mean and mean what you say. Consequences do not have to be long or loud to be effective, they just need to be enforceable. Have you ever given your child a consequence you knew you wouldn’t follow through on? Well guess what, they know it too. So many times kids have said to me in counseling, yeah I’m grounded but she’ll let me out of it soon. They know you as well as you know yourself.
What is the purpose of discipline? To punish? To teach? To change behavior so the same thing doesn’t happen again? Answering this for yourself will help you decide how you can get creative with discipline. If you always use the same form of discipline (time out, grounding), the kid knows what’s coming and decides if it is worth it when breaking a rule. This is not much different than what adults do when they know they shouldn’t speed, but decide the risk of getting caught is worth the potential ticket because they are in a hurry. But if the consequence doesn’t fit the crime, what does the child learn about what they did wrong? Most likely how to try harder not to get caught.
Ideally a consequence will show the child how their own behavior or choice caused the consequence (as opposed to they are in trouble because the parent was mad.) This can be accomplished by warning the child in advance what consequence they will be facing if they continue the negative behavior. For example, “If you hit your sister one more time you will have to write her an apology and she will get to sit in the front seat for a week.” Then if the child does hit her, it is clear that his choice created the consequence. Also, make sure the consequence is one you can enforce. Don’t say you will MAKE the child get in the car if you cannot physically do that. Don’t say you will take away their phone if that means getting in a physical struggle with them. Instead of trying to pry the phone out of their hands, call the company and have the phone put on hold. You are then maintaining control without the power struggle.
Get creative with discipline to teach. This is not always easy in the heat of the moment, but kids that are older than toddlers can be told the punishment is on its way. You can let them know you are going to think about what the punishment will be, and not worry that you have to assign the consequence immediately for them to make the connection. Most importantly, be consistent and follow through. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. Don’t say you will cancel a party if you know you won’t. Again, it doesn’t have to be a giant punishment to make an impact. It just has to be one you mean and will enforce for them to take you seriously.