Disciplining Children

Disciplining children is a difficult topic for many parents, so, what do you do when your child misbehaves? It has been a long debated issue, with many child psychologists and activists coming to the conclusion that corporal punishment (ie, spanking) does not work to correct an undesirable behaviour. Working with children is a difficult task; at one time, things like spanking were considered appropriate, whereas now, most parents adopt a hands-off policy. Which is why a lot of parents are looking for alternative methods of discipline. It is not always easy to find an appropriate discipline for your child, and it may take some trial and error on both your parts, but here are some tips that should better prepare you for using alternative methods of discipline.

First of all, disciplining your children while you are angry tends to  cloud your judgment and may make it difficult to hand down logical and fitting punishments. Keep in mind, punishment is traditionally used to eliminate undesirable behaviour and does not foster pro-social behaviour in young children.

The first thing you may want to try when looking for an alternative method to disciplining your child is perspective checking. If the child has done something that is undesirable to you as a parent, describe the behaviour out-loud to the child in an objective manner (as a stranger who does not know the situation would describe it). Once you have described the behaviour, give the child two options to choose from as to why they engaged in that behaviour (ie, I noticed you are running around the house, I cannot tell if you’re excited or bored). Once you have described the behaviour and given the options, ask the child for verification. Doing this allows you to calm down and for the child to avoid becoming defensive. It is at this point that you would want to think of a suitable discipline.

Using the example of a child running around a house (a behaviour that is, in this case, unacceptable) a suitable method of discipline might be getting that child to exert his or her energy into household chores. Discipline does not need to be mean, or hurtful to the child. In each and every case, the child’s age, and understanding of his or her behaviour must be taken into account.

If you are a little more traditional and do not prefer the method of simply diverting a child from an undesirable behaviour to a desirable one, you can find an item or activity the child values and use it to reinforce or punish the child (give the child the item when he/she is engaging in appropriate behaviour, or take it away if the child is engaging in undesirable behaviour).  

Time-outs are a popular option for parents looking to discipline a child, however, this type of discipline generally only works on children that are already fairly well-behaved. For children that have more of an issue when it comes to discipline may require a more involved option from the parent. A good option for a child with behavioural issues is to “pay restitution” for their behaviours. By this, the child would pay back the parent, sibling, or whoever may have been affected by the behaviour either through their allowance, or providing a service to the person they have harmed. This can be anything, ranging from sweeping the floor for mom, to helping a sibling pick up their toys. These pay backs should be monitored by an adult and of course, should be age appropriate.

It is always a good idea to tailor discipline to the individual child. It may seem fair to discipline all of your children in the same way, but since children are individuals, each one requires a certain amount of special care and attention when developing methods to eliminate or decrease inappropriate behaviour.