One Size Does Not Fit All

I've read lots of books about discipline. Sometimes I take away good stuff that I can use, and other times I look at the book and think, "Does this person even have children?"

The trouble with books about discipline is that they often assume that all children are the same. What works with one child will work with all children. If you've ever met more than one child, you know that each child is different. So it stands to reason that what works with one child may not work with another.

Too many discipline schemes are based on a system that takes a one-size-fits-all approach. Effective discipline will take an individualized approach. The key to effective discipline is finding the things that matter to your child.

My youngest is a tough kid. She's not phased by much. She doesn't really care if you're upset with her. You can talk until you're blue in the face and not get through to her. But take away her video game time or tell her she can't go to hockey practice, and you've got her attention.

My oldest is just the opposite. She couldn't care less about video games, but raise your voice or express disappointment, and she will dissolve into a puddle of tears.

Clearly, attempting to have one system of discipline for both of my kids would never work. When we set up systems for discipline without taking into account the children we are disciplining, we undercut the effectiveness of the system.

God didn't make us all alike, so it's silly for us to assume that what works for one child will work exactly the same way for another. Psalm 139:13-14 says "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." We need to take into account those fearfully and wonderfully made attributes when we consider discipline. We're setting ourselves up for failure when we institute a discipline system that doesn't take our children's individuality into account.

If you look at how God disciplined the Israelites and how he later disciplined David, you'll see He didn't use the same tactics. He let the Israelites wander around in the desert for 40 years to make His point. David's son died because of his sin.

  • Use your kids' natural likes and dislikes to institute discipline. Taking away TV time from a child who prefers to read isn't effective, but taking a favorite TV program away from a child who loves TV will make an impact.
  • Don't be afraid to use different discipline tactics for kids in the same household. Your kids are not the same, so the methods you use for discipline may not be the same. Your kids may think this is unfair, but it's not about fairness. It's about effectiveness.
  • Remember that discipline is about teaching. Whatever method is going to be most effective to teach our children how to change their heart and improve their behavior is the one we should be using.

Spend some time today considering your kids. See if your current discipline system takes into account their individuality. If it doesn't, then work to revamp your system.