Parents and children holding hands watching the sun setAn undisciplined child typically develops destructive behaviour patterns that can hurt them as well as others.

On the other hand, a disciplined child will learn constructive methods that’ll assist them in their interactions with the world.

But the most important part of discipline is that it must be purposeful.

What is Purposeful Discipline?

Purposeful Discipline is a demonstration of one person’s love for another. When parents are intentionally disciplining their child to alter a destructive behaviour, they’re actually expressing love towards their child.

The reason for Purposeful Discipline is for the parent to provide the child with teaching or training that’ll assist them in developing moral values and behaviours. These values and behaviours are those that have passed the test of time and have been proven effective in developing a healthy individual.

The 4 requirements of a parent who wants to use Purposeful Discipline

  • Responsible and emotionally mature
  • Able to meet their children’s concrete physical needs
  • Ready to actively teach through Purposeful Discipline
  • Willing to be firm and consistent with their discipline

The 8 steps of Purposeful Discipline

Be in charge

Your child is your responsibility to raise, not your friend or your equal. To become a friend or equal to the child, a parent has to consciously distort reality. Parents who play the phony game of “I’m your equal” lose their authority as parents.

Model moral values

Adults who are ready to be parents possess awareness and emotional maturity. They’re also aware of the patterns of behaviour and thought that their children need to develop in order to be morally productive people in the future.

For parents to begin the process of instilling values in the mind of a child, the parents need to:

  • Believe in these values.
  • Agree that these values are positive for the development of the child.
  • Most importantly, model these values and corresponding behaviours.

Create parameters

After parents reach an agreement with each other on the values and expectations they desire for their child, they must create parameters.

A parameter defines the expected general value that’s to be internalized by the child. Parameters are demonstrated by examples that illustrate each of the values that the parents want their children to internalize.

The more creative energy the parents use in various situations to communicate their parameters, the clearer and more focused the child’s mental picture of what their parents expect from them will be.

Set limits and expectations 

Parents set limits and expectations when they state the rules pertaining to what the child can and can’t do. As parents observe a child’s behaviour, however, they may see that the child often wanders outside of the established parameters.

A parent will then notice the discrepancy between a particular parameter (desired value) and the child’s inappropriate behaviour. To move the child back inside the lines of the parameter, the parent must announce the rules to the child once again.

Prepare child with anticipated consequences

Once parameters and the corresponding limits are set, situational preparation logically follows. Each particular situation that is to occur, such as visiting relatives, going to church or taking a day trip, will require that parents prepare their children for specific expectations.

Parents need to offer a child the anticipation of either a reward for good behaviour or punishing consequences for inappropriate behaviour. By spelling out their expectations to the child, the parents are setting up a forced choice that increases the probability of the child displaying socially approved behaviour.

Debrief after the event

After each specific event, parents must debrief their children on how things went, according to their perception. As the children were forewarned by the prepping outlined above, they should be evaluated immediately following the situational event.

Administer consequences

Parents need to observe each child and offer rewarding or punishing consequences depending on the behaviour exhibited.

Consequences are responses to behaviour that increase or decrease the probability of a person adhering to a specific behaviour. Using consequences shows the determination of an adult to enforce limits and maintain their integrity as a parental authority figure.

Discuss the purpose of the discipline 

Finally, parents need to ask their children or simply tell them the reason for the administered consequences, in order to increase understanding and decrease resentment.

Depending on the age of the child, the parent will explain, in an understandable way, how the child’s choices affect the family, their friends and their own development as a person. The younger the child, the simpler the explanation. For an older child, it’s best to provide a more complex, well-reasoned explanation for each specific consequence.

Purposeful Discipline leads to internal self-discipline

Providing a child with opportunities to develop values such as love, obedience, respectfulness, empathy, honesty, independence, willpower, conscience, critical thinking, pain control, social skills and safety awareness is an expression of love.

Parents who consciously pass on their wisdom through Purposeful Discipline will eventually create a child who’s able to internalize the process of becoming self-disciplined. The emergence of a young individual’s self-discipline is a sure sign of strong parental love for the child.

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Dr. Domenick J. Maglio has been an educator and psychologist for over 45 years. He is the author of In-Charge Parenting: In a P.C. Nation. For more information, please visit, and connect with him on Twitter, @djmaglio.
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