058: Discipline with (the right) feeling

The last Show & T.E.L.L. post brought up what it means to discipline in a T.E.L.L.ing way (How to TELL and discipline a child). I emphasized that a child is disciplined in order learn self-control in a specific situation. I am curious to hear if you practiced any of the suggestions provided when disciplining a child. Did you find yourself saying “this makes sense, if only I remember it in the heat of the moment!”

So true – our feelings can get the best of us. When we are angry or frustrated, we tend to react. That’s why the fourth point in the previous post was to discipline without anger. Learning to discipline from a caring place is one of the major principles for T.E.L.L.ing children.

I think most would agree that it is much easier to discipline when you feel good. The challenge is when our feelings are hurtful, such as when we feel frustrated, angry, disappointed, or sad. It is during these moments that you as the adult have to discipline yourself first. You discipline yourself so the feeling/emotion does not control your response, and your wisdom does.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Henry Cloud’s & Dr. John Townsend’s book Boundaries:

“Feelings come from your heart and can tell you the state of your relationships. They can tell you if things are going well, or if there is a problem. If you feel close and loving, things are probably going well. If you feel angry, you have a problem that needs to be addressed. But the point is, your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to.”

So when you feel angry, or another hurtful feeling, recognize there is a problem that needs to be addressed – and the child is not the problem! Yes, the child may be very involved in the situation; however, the child is not the cause of your feeling. When a child misbehaves, for example he hits or bites another child, you feel frustrated; the issue is not the child. The frustrated feeling lets you know there is a problem with how the child is thinking. He believes he must hit to get his needs met. Or, maybe the child is frustrated so the child allows the emotion to control what he or she does.

During childhood, it is critical for children to begin learning how to self-control their emotions. Children learn how to develop self-control of emotions largely by how the adults respond when disciplining. Emotions are central when disciplining, especially yours. More on self-control in the next post.


About the author of this post:  Denise Forrest, Ph.D.

Denise is a mother of three grown children and has been a teacher to thousands of students.  She is the creator of the TELL message and Founder of TELL Our Children, Inc. Denise also serves K-12 schools as an educational consultant focusing on mathematics education and instructional decisions for student learning. You can contact her by emailing denise@tellourchildren.org.

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057: How to TELL and discipline a child?

I am often asked for my opinion on disciplining a child. Typically, the conversation centers on whether I believe in spanking or punishing children. The caregivers  want to know if you focus on T.E.L.L.ing your child, can you still discipline him or her? I thought I’d respond to this question in today’s Show & T.E.L.L. blog.

First, I’d like to clarify the purpose of any disciplinary action, whether it be a spanking, timeout, sent to a room, taking away a privilege, etc.

You discipline a child in order to teach him or her to make a better choice. You want the child to gain a better understanding of how actions also choose consequences. You discipline because you believe the child should develop more self-control in a particular situation.

When a child is disobedient, making poor choices, he or she requires discipline. The child needs instruction to teach him or her to make a better choice. He or she needs to gain a better understanding of how this action has negative consequences. If the disobedient behavior is not addressed, the child will more than likely continue thinking and therefore behaving this way given similar circumstances.

Because children need correction, they need discipline. Adults must T.E.L.L. children to behave in appropriate ways! If not you, then who?

T.E.L.L.ing a child means you focus on changing the child’s mindset. You teach and encourage the child to think in ways that allow him or her to make better choices. So when you discipline, if you also wish to effectively T.E.L.L. your child in this moment, consider these ideas:

1) Discipline promptly because a young child’s mind is in the present. You want to connect the inappropriate behavior with discipline. You want the child to link the action to a consequence.

2) The punishment, i.e., spanking, time out, etc., may get your child’s attention and get them to link the inappropriate behavior with the punishment; however, to effectively T.E.L.L., you also give time to work on changing your child’s mind. You Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love new ideas about how to better behave in this situation.

3) When you T.E.L.L., focus on one or two good ideas to help your child better understand positive and negative consequences, as well as allow your child to make a better choice in this situation. Most importantly, make sure the ideas make sense to your child so the child will more likely remember the new ideas in the future.

4) T.E.L.L. without anger because children will focus more on your negative emotion than your words. Discipline of any kind is most effective when you remain calm.

As my children were growing up, I most often used timeouts. At first the timeout location was in a chair in the same room.  Rather quickly, my children learned the timeout rules were they had to sit quietly until the timer went off; the timer did not start until they were quiet and calm, and once the timer went off they had to tell me why they believed they were put in timeout. I followed the general rule I’d heard somewhere, never more minutes than their age, most often less than that. For example, at 2 years of age, put anywhere from 1 minute to a minute and a half on the timer, never more than 2.

Once the timer went off, we would talk about why they were put in timeout as well as what they could do differently and why. If appropriate, we would practice the situation using the new ideas.

As my children got older, the timeout moved to their room. I would send them with a piece of paper and pen to write me a letter about what just happened and what they may need to think about doing differently in the future. How I wish I still had those letters!

Bottom line: you discipline a child in order to teach him or her to make a better choice. Try and do more than just punish the child. Try and help the child gain a better understanding of how actions have negative and positive consequences. Help the child develop a sense of self-control. That is how you discipline and effectively T.E.L.L. your child during those moments.

My opinion? Children need discipline. We all need discipline. I can think of areas in my life where I should be more disciplined. Can’t you?

So let me know, what strategies do you use to discipline your child? What strategies do you use to discipline yourself? Send me an email with your strategies.


About the author of this post:  Denise Forrest, Ph.D.

Denise is a mother of three grown children and has been a teacher to thousands of students.  She is the creator of the TELL message and Founder of TELL Our Children, Inc. Denise also serves K-12 schools as an educational consultant focusing on mathematics education and instructional decisions for student learning. You can contact her by emailing denise@tellourchildren.org.








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056: Catch a falling child

I used to take my children to playgrounds when they were younger.  I would do my best to catch them before they might fall. Yet there were times when one of them would fall anyway. I would go over and comfort him or her. Even if it was a mere scrape on the knee, I would go and at least kiss the wound to help make the hurt go away.  Of course, when the fall was more severe I, along with most adults watching, would run over immediately and attend to the child.

Most adults react when they notice a child in physical pain. We certainly don’t begin by punishing the child for falling. Our first instinct is try and comfort the child. Maybe later we might talk to the child about why the accident happened and how it could be avoided, but that is not our immediate reaction.

Father putting a plaster band over knee injury to his son after falling off to the bicycle

What about when a child has an emotional fall? What about when a child is feeling the challenges of frustration, anger, defeat, embarrassment, disappointment, and sadness? Have you thought about how you respond when you notice an unhappy child? How do you respond when a child falls down emotionally?

You certainly know what it is like to feel these challenging thoughts, to be falling emotionally. However, adults must realize children often do not know how to communicate these feelings. Instead, a child who is falling emotionally may act out by withdrawing, crying, hitting you or others, or talking back, just to name some of the notable behaviors.

This child isn’t acting this way to be mean or to be bad child. The child is expressing an emotional pain. The child is falling emotionally. Just like you don’t immediately begin by punishing your child for falling physically, think about your first response when they fall emotionally.

Help your child by T.E.L.L.ing them in this moment. That is, use your words and actions to Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love to help your child feel better. You do this naturally when your child falls physically. Consider these four ideas forT.E.L.L.ing a child when the fall is emotional.

1. Realize a misbehavior could be a sign of an emotional fall. Don’t begin by punishing the behavior.

2. Do what you can to find out what your child is thinking. Find out your child’s point of view in this moment. That is, understand how your child sees the situation. Try and walk in your child’s shoes. Do your best to really listen and hear the child’s ideas. If your child is too young to share his or her thinking, still try and walk in the child’s shoes in this moment. For example, ask yourself “What could this mean for my child? Could it mean anything else?”

3. Realize your child may be too young to know what he or she is feeling. Try and help the child understand and name the feeling. Teach your child a way to express this feeling.

4. While interacting, try and use your child’s words to help connect feelings with actions in the situation. For example “You’re (emotion) because (action).” We do this because since emotions are influencing your child’s behavior, this connection may not be understood by the child in this moment. In a previous Show & T.E.L.L. Blog post, we talked about how the child’s feelings influence action (link here if you would like to read this post).

Let’s try and remember children fall physically and emotionally, just like adults. Why not catch the falling child when we can? Why not do our best toT.E.L.L. our children?

caring father calms toddler son outdoors on the sky background


About the author of this post:  Denise Forrest, Ph.D.

Denise is a mother of three grown children and has been a teacher to thousands of students.  She is the creator of the TELL message and Founder of TELL Our Children, Inc. Denise also serves K-12 schools as an educational consultant focusing on mathematics education and instructional decisions for student learning. You can contact her by emailing denise@tellourchildren.org.

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055: Reaction — Being in the moment with your child isn’t easy, but it is necessary

The most recent Show & Tell Blog (Give Your Child Knowledge And Strength HERE And NOW) was a very powerful blog for me personally. It caused me to stop and think about my actions as a parent. The blog talked about how children live in the current moment and how we, as the adults and caregivers in their lives, need to be present in that moment with them.

As a parent and an adult, it can be hard to live in the here and now. I know it is hard for me. I am constantly thinking ahead, making plans, worrying about what’s for dinner tonight, what do I need to do tomorrow, what’s going on next week, etc. Sometimes when my child needs me NOW, I feel I don’t have the time nor the patience for her and maybe even get frustrated when she needs something from me NOW.

At times, it is hard for me to remember this about children, that they live in the present moment, the one they are in right this second. This moment has them feeling whatever they are feeling and is causing them to emote, whether it be a happy emotion, a sad one, or an angry one.

Let’s try and remember children aren’t adults — they have not learned to think ahead and to plan ahead as we have. We cannot expect them to understand our way of thinking. But children do (as they should) expect us to understand their way of thinking. After all, we were a child once, too. We’ve been where they are right now, in whatever moment they are feeling and emoting.

Parenting and caregiving isn’t easy. Remembering what it was like as a child isn’t easy. But parenting and caregiving is the most important role we have and we must strive to do our best. We must Teach our children, we must Encourage them, we must Listen to them, we must Love them. And to do that, we must see things their way since they can’t see things from ours. And their way is right now, in this moment, feeling this feeling. If you can be in that moment with your child in a T.E.L.L.ing way, you are giving them (and most likely yourself) strength and wisdom for the future. Even if that future is the next moment from now, or the next hour, or the next day, or years from now.

So this week, join me and plan to be in the moment with your child, no matter what the moment brings.

About the author of this post:

CE is a mother of one four-year-old girl, a board member of T.E.L.L. Our Children, and an editor. She can be reached at stareditors@gmail.com.

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054: Give your child knowledge and strength HERE and NOW

It’s not about giving a child knowledge and strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour. Give a child knowledge and strength in the current moment. More specifically, help a child overcome a strain he or she may be feeling here and now. From your adult point of view, the strain may be no big deal. However, for the child, the strain is real; the strain is emotional. The child needs strength and knowledge in this moment to become stronger and wiser.

mom and toddler

These are the moments to seriously think about T.E.L.L.ing a child. Give the child’s thoughts and feelings your full attention. Be present, be here and now. Be with the child so you can catch and redirect him or her as he or she is feeling a strain.

Pause and ask yourself, “How can my words and actions Teach? How can my words and actions Encourage? How can my words and actions show I Listen? How do my words and actions show I Love?” Your words and actions can guide and support a child through a straining moment.

By being present in the moment, by guiding and supporting your child through a straining moment, you also transform your child’s thoughts for the future.

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053: Are you raising your child “right”?

There is no formula, there is no one way to raise a child right; however, you can raise a child to become right. That is, you can raise a child toward right motives, right thinking, right relationships, right character, etc.

If you want to raise your child to live right, you do this one moment at a time. You do this by living the present moment with the child, by being alive and active. T.E.L.L. — Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love — your child every moment how to be right. Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love your child every moment how to think and value positive motives, thinking, relationships, character, etc.

Start thinking today how you can find practical ways to T.E.L.L. a child to live right. For example, find moments to talk with your child about why he or she wants something — or doesn’t want something.

Start by paying closer attention to your own ways. Do you have the right motives, right thinking, and right relationships? When you get to the bottom line, that’s one of the best ways to T.E.L.L. a child to do the same!

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