Disciplining your child is a critical component to parenting. However, it’s not always easy! By definition, discipline is used to teach children about expectations and guidelines, so it’s important and necessary for parents to take the time and effort to determine the best form of discipline for any given situation. Here are a few tips for providing positive and effective discipline.
- Remember what you’re trying to teach your child. The primary purpose of discipline—other than protecting your child from danger—is to teach your child how he or she should behave and to teach him or her the difference between right and wrong.
Logical consequences should be applied to the behavior. For example, if a child throws crayons on the floor, instruct her to pick them up and play with them appropriately or she won’t be allowed to use them again. In this case, you’re teaching your child that if she doesn’t treat her belongings with care, she won’t be able to enjoy them. This
is preferable to disconnecting the consequence from the behavior by sending her to time out or taking away dessert.
2.Criticize the behavior, not the child. Your child is building her sense of self. If she hears that she is bad, selfish, rude or mean enough times during development, she will believe it and behave accordingly.
Instead of: Stop being so selfish and give your sister the toy.
Say: I don’t like it when you don’t share your toys with your sister. It isn’t nice, and it keeps her from playing.
When redirecting your child, try to use positives rather than negatives.
Instead of: Don’t throw your toys!
Say: I like it when you play gently with your toys.
- Praise positive behaviors. Parents often pay more attention to negative or unsafe behaviors than positive ones. But it’s important to praise a child for behaving. This can be your most powerful discipline tool.
Children naturally seek attention from their caregivers, so if they receive positive attention for positive behaviors, there is a higher likelihood they will continue those behaviors. Otherwise, they may misbehave simply to gain your attention.
- Be consistent. Discipline loses meaning when you don’t follow through with the consequences you set. Thus, it’s important to avoid setting unrealistic consequences that you don’t intend to keep.
Don’t claim you’ll turn the car around and go home if your child doesn’t behave. (You know full well you’re almost at your destination and have no intention of stopping.) Remember: you’re teaching your child that negative actions are followed by a logical, negative consequence.
- Learn the developmental stages of children. Discipline that works at one stage may not work at another. The more you know about normal developmental stages, the better you’ll be able to guide your child and even prevent misbehavior.
Try to understand what causes your child to act out. For example, adults can moderate their behavior when they’re tired, hungry or bored, but a preschool-aged child can’t. Know what to expect from your child and bring snacks, allow for naps and set up your child for success. If you know your child is hungry, don’t take him with you to the grocery store at that time.
- Address your stress. Every parent has times when they reach the end of their patience. Being a parent is not easy, so it’s important to take care of yourself so you can provide consistency for your child. Stress can cause a parent to respond too harshly to negative behaviors or simply ignore the behaviors because they’re too tired and overwhelmed to respond.
Stress and lack of sleep are common among parents, but pay attention to how you are feeling. Discipline should be based on logical consequences to your child’s actions, not how you are feeling that day. If you’re struggling with stress, reach out for help and find ways to take time to meet your own needs.
We learn how to be adults from the adults who raise us. Ask yourself: What kind of adult do you want your child to be? If you’re ever unsure what to do, remember to think about what your child is learning from your actions.
The Center for Child Protection is a nationally accredited children’s advocacy center and the first stop for children in Travis County who are suspected victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect or have witnessed a violent crime. For more information, visit centerforchildprotection.org.