People don’t just stumble upon good parenting. Parenting well, like any other skill in life, is something we learn not just through what we were taught when we were growing up, but by expanding our strengths and skills when we become parents ourselves.

Instilling a sense of discipline in children is something few parents feel very comfortable doing. “I just want them to have fun and be kids!” the guilty parent says. But discipline, whether you like it or not, is the cornerstone for understanding values and responsibility — things all kids will need to learn sooner or later.

Effective discipline comes from the following five C’s. Get these right, and you’ll have far less problems with your kids as they age, as they’ve learned the rules and what breaking them means.

1. CLARITY: Be clear when you set rights, rules and limits.

  • Don’t assume your children know family rules until you’ve talked about them.
  • Be sure your children understand why these rules are being made and the consequences for breaking the rules.
  • Involve your children as much as possible in making the rules.
  • Try writing out your family rules and posting them on the refrigerator.

2. CONSISTENCY: Be consistent in enforcing rules.

  • Stick to the consequence that has been established for a broken rule.
  • Discipline will be more effective if your children have been involved in establishing the rules.
  • If a change needs to be made in a family rule, talk about it before the rule is broken.
  • Be flexible — as your children grow, they’re ready for expanded rights and changes in rules and limits.

3. COMMUNICATION: Talk about rights, rules and limits often.

  • Be willing to discuss the fairness of a rule and the reasons for it.
  • Help your children learn to talk with you about feelings.
  • Encourage your children to come to you when they need help.
  • Express respect and faith in your child through your words, gestures and tone of voice.

4. CARING: Use encouragement and support, not just discipline for broken rules.

  • Praise your children when they follow your family rules, especially when they do what’s expected of them without reminders from you.
  • When a rule is broken, criticize the action and not your children.
  • Follow up swiftly when a rule is broken; stay calm and carry out the consequences your children expect.
  • Make sure the consequences are appropriate for the broken rule.
  • Respect your children’s rights, such as the right to privacy.

5. CREATE: Instill a sense of social responsibility in your children.

  • Let your children know you expect moral behavior, like honesty and fairness.
  • Set an example of honesty, fairness and social responsibility for your children to follow.
  • Promote your child’s sense of self-respect.