All children need guidance and discipline—not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. Remind your children of the consequences of their actions and provide meaningful rewards for desirable behavior. Fathers who discipline in a calm and fair manner show love for their children. (Taken from NFI's 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad).

Here are a couple age-specific suggestions for how you can discipline with love:

For dads of infants and toddlers:
  • Discipline as a way to protect: At this age, guidance and discipline are about protecting your little one from hurting themselves. Say "no" firmly, but not harshly, when your child does something dangerous and move him or her away from the object or area immediately.
  • Consistency is important: Be consistent with enforcing the boundaries you set in your home—inconsistency will confuse your child and give him the "ok" to push the limits if he thinks he can get away with it.

For dads of school-aged children:
  • Discipline as a way to nurture: As your child gets older, he or she can understand moral principles and you can begin to use discipline and guidance to help him or her learn that certain behaviors are not only unsafe but unacceptable. When your child does something inappropriate, talk with him gently about why the behavior was wrong—explain how it hurt other people or is rude.
  • Take a break if you're frustrated: The old trick your mom taught you to count to 10 before you speak can actually be helpful if you find yourself losing patience with your child. Never discipline out of anger. If you are frustrated, tell your child that you will talk with him or her later after you've had some time to think about an appropriate way to respond to his wrong behavior. Take a walk, read a book, do something else to calm yourself down. Then go back to your child and calmly discuss.
  • Make the discipline fit the child: Different children will respond to different approaches of discipline. One of your children might learn better through being deprived of a privilege (such as watching TV or a favorite toy); another child might respond more to being sent to his or her room or having to do extra chores.

For dads of teenagers:
  • Discipline as a way to guide: At this point, your teen is becoming an adult and wants to be treated as such. But, he or she is still going to make mistakes and some unwise decisions, and still needs your guidance. You still need to be your teen's parent, not best friend, and that means setting rules to help your teen make good decisions and firmly enforcing consequences when those rules are violated.
  • Let them make mistakes: While your teen still needs to honor your family's rules, giving your teen the freedom to make his own choices can be a valuable learning experience. Yes, they'll make mistakes and experience the consequences of those. But you are there to help them navigate those situations. Always make sure your words and actions communicate to your teen that you will always love them even if they make mistakes.

Find more advice—as well as information on how to connect with other dads—at National Fatherhood Initiative. And check out their advice on The 5 Styles of Discipline.

Get resources for fathers and support for fatherless sons 


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