Discipling Methods for Children

The age old problem of how to administer effective discipline to children will probably still haunt parents a hundred years from now.  Everybody is different and family units vary widely in structure. There is no set answer as how to effectively modify behavior without breaking young people’s spirit that will fit all circumstances.  There are, however, some things all the experts agree should be avoided.

Physical punishment

While it may be immediately effective it tends to teach that it’s okay to lash out physically under certain circumstances.  It can also set the foundation for low self esteem.  A slap on the behind probably won’t ruin a child fore life but overall there are more positive methods that will have a lasting effect.

Name calling

Children can reduce their parents to a five year old level faster than anyone on the planet.  Avoid giving the youngster a negative picture of themselves.  It is their action that is unappreciated not them.

Cool Down

Sometimes both parent and child need a cooling off period to deal with the situation.  Take a few minutes to get control of yourself as a screaming match will more than likely accomplish nothing.  Approach the matter with a cool head so that discipline is given out fairly.

Don’t Over Rule

Resist having so many rules that it confuses or overly restricts your youngsters.  Keep it fairly simply.  Treating others with respect, no hitting or cussing, have your homework done and no backtalk are examples of easy to follow rules that also establish boundaries. 

Effective disciplining begins by reacting appropriately to the child’s age group and changing methods as the children grow. This is an area where parents (or the adults in the household) need to present a united front.  Youngsters are smart and will attempt to play one adult against the other.  It’s almost a right of passage to try this one at least once.

It’s important to keep discipline age appropriate and consistent.  Children need to understand the cause and effect of behavior and consequences.  The punishment should fit the crime and be considered an expected event following negative behavior. Below are some guidelines on how to get your discipline strategy effectively started and maintained as your family grows.

Children under eighteen months have a natural desire to explore their world and may not understand the reasoning behind punishment.  Positive reinforcement and redirection are essential at this young age.  Praising them for good behavior and diverting their attention unto an appropriate activity will prove far more effective than other forms of discipline.

When your child has reached the toddler years they will have a better understanding of consequences.  This is the time for parents to establish themselves as the boss through the continued use of praise for good behavior, redirecting at times when the youngster doesn’t realize they’re doing something wrong and enforcing time outs when they do realize they’re stepping out of line.  Experts disagree as to how long a time out should last but a fairly standard guideline is a minute per year of age.  Have the child sit quietly somewhere out of the household flow after administering a warning.  The trick is the toddler has to remain there the entire time or the clock starts over.  It’s important to follow through, particularly at this age, so there is no doubt that the adults are in charge.  The quiet time will let the youngster cool down.  The parent should be at the child’s eye level when they ask for an “I’m sorry” and offer a brief explanation.  Children develop at different rates and in different areas so verbal reprimands should be kept brief and to the point.

At around age four a child is ready for boundaries.  They’ve all ready been established to some degree but now the parent is dealing with a school age child capable of making decisions both right and wrong.  They should become familiar with the family rules and realize that stepping outside of the family limits will have negative consequences.  In the younger school age child a time out will still be effective but for older children the restriction of privileges or grounding is more age appropriate. If homework isn’t done than there’s no television or video games for a few days is an example of a logical consequence.  If they need more time to complete their school work obviously there’s less room for more fun activity during their free time. Positive reinforcement is important.  When a child hears how proud their parent are of their accomplishments it helps boost their self esteem and will help reduce future negative behavior. Parents also need to flexible to some degree.  If a child has a reasonable request or reason for breaking a rule they should be heard.  Things may not change but growing children should know their parents are interested in their opinion and will listen to them.

When the dreaded teen years make their appearance parents may find themselves challenged not to revert back to screaming five year old   Teens not only know which buttons to press they know when to press them.  When adults step back and take a deep breath it becomes easier to appreciate the mental and physical vise a young person deals with on an everyday basis.  They have begun to edge closer to the end of the tree limb and will flap their wings in attempts to fly.  Almost all of them have a few tumbles. Despite their raging hormones and need to belong within their own peer group, teens need and want their parents.  The boundaries and security within the family unit provide them shelter from what can seem an increasingly hostile world.  Parents should pick their battles. Allow children of this age to make some choices so long as they do not violate family rules.  When boundaries are crossed restriction of privileges and grounding are effective so long as they are carried through. Even if it appears you’re speaking to the wind continue complimenting good behavior and accomplishments.  They do hear you.  Take a deep breath and ask yourself if hair color is really that important.  Let them have the battles that have relatively little impact on their lives. (You are all going to have a good laugh over that hair style in ten years.)

There’s no pat answer to disciplining children that will satisfy all parents and circumstances.  Present a united front, let your youngsters know you value them and follow through with consistent and appropriate consequences  Take a deep breath and remember this is the toughest and best job you’ll ever have.