A Collaborative Approach to Discipline

A simple strategy with game-changing results. 

I always like to share different behavior management ideas I have implemented or have observed to be successful. In this post, I’ll share one of my favorites! It’s a collaborative approach, and it can be a tremendous learning experience for both kiddos and adults.

basketball team stacking hands together
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Option 1: State the rules and collaborate on the consequences

Sit down with your children or child, and talk about your rules and expectations. For example, when we did this in our house, we talked about household responsibilities and our treatment toward others. Our expectations include, cleaning up their rooms, making their beds, doing their laundry, emptying the dishwasher, etc. Our expectations regarding the treatment of others include engaged listening, exercising kindness and gratitude toward yourself and others, etc. 

Once they’re aware of the rules, ask the children what they think should happen if a rule is broken. This exercise can be applied for both positive and negative reinforcement. Meaning, if they do the things expected of them (i.e. making their bed in the morning or cleaning up toys after a play date), they should choose the reward (obviously within reason). Conversely, they should discuss fair consequences in the event a rule is broken.

Children enjoy this process because it allows them to have a say. It’s a great opportunity to validate their ideas and to encourage collaboration.

many colored crayons
many colored crayons

It’s a great tool to use in a classroom setting as well. A teacher can describe her expectations in the classroom. Then as a group the children discuss, even debate, what a consequence should look like when a rule is violated. Once a few reasonable ideas are discussed, the class can vote on which consequences the teacher should implement. If they follow the rules, the class gets to decide what their reward should be.

Option 2: The children participate in creating the rules

An alternative approach is to have you and your children come up with household rules. In this situation, each family member suggests rules and explains how they would benefit everyone. The rules can be discussed and challenged before everyone votes. Take this opportunity to teach your children how to ask questions, debate a topic respectfully, and practice active listening. Model how to have a healthy debate. Once you’ve discussed the suggested rules, vote on the top 5. Make sure to put the 5 rules up somewhere in your home where everyone can see.

Two person smiling
Two person smiling

Use this time to explain why certain rules are in place. For example, if one of the rules is to treat everyone with respect, explain what that means. What does it look like? What does it sound like? How do we practice respect in moments when we’re feeling tired or frustrated? Don’t just create a list of rules from an authoritative place. Make it a collaborative effort.

Option 3: Kiddos give their parents rules

Here’s where it can get really fun. Give your children the opportunity to create rules for you or both parents. For this to be effective, you have to create a safe space for kiddos to share their expectations of you. This is an awesome activity to try, and it can be really telling to hear what your children need from you. For example, I have seen several children administer this rule to their parents: “When we talk I want you to put your phone down.” It seems simple, but how often do you talk to your children while checking your email or phone? I always think it’s the small things that carry the most weight. Take a minute to ask your children: What are your expectations of me? Their responses may really surprise you. 

Try this out in your home, classroom or any environment where it’s applicable, and share your experience. What surprised you? Were there any great conversations that bloomed from this space? What did you learn? Give it a try, and no matter what, you are not allowed to say, Because I said so.


Hi, I'm Albiona!

I have over 20 years of experience working with children and families, first as an early childhood educator and currently as a pediatric speech and language pathologist. I’m also a mom of two amazing humans, a writer, and life long learner. My hope is to help parents reframe the way they interpret their child’s behavior while reflecting on their parenting journey.


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