There is a fine line in parenting between being a friend to your child and being a parent. If you blur the two, it can lead to an unhealthy relationship and leave your child grasping for guidance and desperate for discipline.

It can be challenging because we want our children to love us, respect us and enjoy spending time with us. However, investing the time and energy in setting firm guidelines now will likely create a lasting bond with your children later in life. Believe it or not, there will likely be day that they express gratitude for keeping them in line and helping them understand that while we love them, we cannot ignore bad behavior.

Here are some tips:

Set Boundries

When children are young, they need to know where the boundaries are and how far they can go before crossing those boundaries. It's up to you to establish them and stick to them. For instance, do you allow your children to jump on the bed? If not, you need to set the boundary and stick to it. If you don't, it sends a mixed message to your child and might be confusing. By establishing clear boundaries you give your child the opportunity to fail — by breaking the rule — or to succeed — by remembering not to break the rule. That can be empowering to them, when you recognize or reward their positive behavior.

Be Firm

Sure, we're all going to bend the rules occasionally. In fact, we should. It shows our children that we can be flexible. However, if you make a rule or tell a child not to do something that you consider harmful — running in the street, playing with a dangerous object — you must follow up immediately and make sure they understand that they must not disobey you. If you threaten to punish and the rules are broken, follow through.


It's no fun to punish someone. Forcing a child into time out or taking away a cherished privilege can be hard to do. But this is why you're the parent. We don't punish our kids to hurt them; we punish them to teach them. Once the punishment is set and decided upon, do not backtrack. That sets a standard where your children will see you as a pushover and any future punishment you dole out, will lack forcefulness.

Helping, Not Hurting

Some parents feel that punishing their child sends a bad message and is mean. However, it does just the opposite. It shows your child that actions have consequences. They will begin to learn that by misbehaving, bad things happen — they lose toys, other privileges or go into time out. Punishing helps to establish boundaries and, hopefully, create more positive behavior. In the moment, it may be difficult to endure their anger and cries but it's only temporary. They long-time payoff will be a child who understands rules and follows them.

Be Respectful

Some equate punishment and discipline with being angry, speaking loudly or in a threatening manner. It doesn't have to mean any of those things. For many fathers, that is our natural instinct — to raise our voices and demand compliance. That rarely works in any facet of life. When we must admonish or discipline our children, it can be done with a calm conversation where we lay out the transgression and explain the punishment.

Follow Up

Your child may react with tears, words of contrition or even words of anger. Understand that these reactions are normal but you must hold your ground. You decided to discipline them for a reason. However, once the punishment is served or once heads have cooled, it might be helpful to have a follow-up conversation with your child. You can help them understand why they were disciplined, that you hope they learned a specific lesson from it and that you did it because you love them.

This Is Your Job

It is your job to be a parent, not a friend. We are raising children and have to teach them every single thing that will guide them to a life of safety, prosperity and happiness. If they can learn rules and good behavior in your home, it will make their experiences in school, in sports or other activities more beneficial and long lasting. Taking a moment to discipline your child today can make a world of difference tomorrow.