10 Unhealthy Reasons Why Parents Avoid Disciplining Children

Kids need consistent discipline.
Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images

Disciplining children is hard work. It requires constant vigilance, consistency and thought-provoking effort. So if you're a little lax on those days you're tired or overwhelmed, you're not alone.

A lack of discipline can be a serious problem. And while it may be tempting to make excuses for your child's behavior, limits and consequences are important. Don't let these 10 excuses get in the way of giving your child healthy discipline:

1. “I feel sorry for him. He’s been under a lot of stress lately.”

Parents sometimes feel guilty when kids have had to endure rough times, such as a divorce or being bullied at school. It’s natural to feel bad, after all, who wants to see their child hurt?

Allowing misbehavior to slide, however, isn’t the solution. In fact, stressed out kids need discipline more than ever to help them feel secure. Show your child that you're able to keep him safe by setting limits.

2. “He didn’t mean to do that.”

Kids shouldn’t be disciplined for accidentally spilling a glass of milk, but they can take responsibility for their actions by helping to clean it up. Allowing too much leeway because something was an “accident” can prevent kids from accepting full responsibility.

If you decide, “He didn’t really mean to push his brother that hard,” and excuse it, he’s likely to learn he can talk his way out of things by using the “It was an accident” excuse.

3. “I haven’t spent much time with them lately.”

Allowing your child to misbehave because you feel guilty won’t do either one of you any good. If you feel bad, look for other ways to resolve your guilt about discipline. For example, do you need to create more time to spend together? Or do you need to remind yourself that it is good for your child to have healthy discipline?

4. “I was too hard on him yesterday.”

If you offered up some harsh discipline earlier, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discipline him now. It’s essential that you’re consistent with discipline. Inconsistency confuses children and leads to increased behavior problems. 

5. “Kids will be kids.”

There is certainly such a thing as normal misbehavior. However, it’s important to distinguish between normal and abnormal child behavior problems. Allowing kids to get away with misbehavior by chalking it up to “normal kid stuff” can be detrimental if you’re letting your child get away with too many rule violations.

6. “I don’t want him to be upset.”

It can be tempting sometimes to look the other way when you’re child’s having a good time and you know placing him in time-out will upset him. However, teaching children to deal with negative feelings is one of the six life skills your discipline should be teaching. You’ll be doing him a disservice by not helping him learn how to regulate his emotions.

7. “I’m too tired to deal with it.”

There will be days that you just feel too exhausted or drained to give out one more negative consequence.

However, it’s important to muster up the energy to offer consistent discipline. Devote extra time and energy into behavior problems now and it’ll reduce the effort needed down the road.

8. “He won’t listen anyway.”

A lack of confidence in parenting can be a big problem that prevents people from disciplining because their afraid their child won’t go to time out or won’t listen when privileges are taken away. If consequences aren’t effective, examine the reasons why your discipline isn’t working. Avoiding discipline will only make the problem worse and it’s essential that you gain parenting skills to discipline effectively.

9. “He’ll think I’m mean.”

One of the four biggest parenting mistakes is only looking at the short-term. In the short-term, your child might think you’re mean for taking away his toy or not letting him play outside. However, in the long-term, it’s the best thing for him and is essential to helping him learn. Sometimes, when your child is angry with you, it means you’re doing your job well.

10. “I always have to be the bad guy.”

If you’ve got a partner who lets your child get away with behavior problems, it’s likely you’ll feel like the bad guy when you lay down the law. Learn how to discipline together with your partner so your child doesn’t view one of you as the “bad guy.” Establish household rules and work together to enforce these rules consistently.

Continue Reading