While every child is different, most children need to be given consistent, clear rules and expectations about behavior.
The following are some general principles about discipline:
- Discipline needs to begin as soon as the child is mobile – pulling up and crawling.
- Young infants rely on their parents to provide a safe environment.
- Discipline should be age-focused and should teach age-appropriate behaviors.
- Try to recognize and praise your child when he/she is being good.
- Be a good role model for your child.
- After the discipline occurs, hug your child. Make sure the child knows it is the behavior you are not happy with, not the child.
- Physical punishment is not needed or appropriate.
- Rewards for good behavior should be immediate.
Decrease unwanted behavior:
It is important to remember not to reward a child or give positive reinforcement for a bad behavior. For example, if a child is having a temper tantrum, giving him/her a cookie to be quiet is rewarding the child for the bad behavior. In order to help decrease the chance of bad behavior, consider the following:
- Do not reinforce the behavior; simply ignore the child.
- The behavior may have to result in an unpleasant consequence, such as punishment.
- Active punishment has two forms, including the following:
- denying the child privileges or desired activities, such as decreasing TV time or no dessert
- undesirable or uncomfortable activities can be required of the child, such as doing chores or having “time-out”
- The behavior can result in natural consequences. For example, a child who will not eat may go to bed hungry.
- It is generally accepted that spanking and other forms of physical punishment are not helpful. These types of discipline teach the child aggressive behaviors and poor conflict management.
Methods of discipline:
Discipline methods often depend on the age of the child, and how much the child understands his/her behavior. The following are some suggestions for discipline techniques for each age group:
- infants and toddlers:
- Safety is the main concern.
- Infants will respond to a loud, firm voice saying “no.”
- Provide a safe environment that decreases the chances of things being broken by the child.
- After saying “no,” direct your child to an acceptable behavior, such as a toy.
- Do not reward bad behavior. Ignore temper tantrums, but confront other problems, such as biting or hitting.
- Praise and reward good behavior.
- Preschoolers need clear and consistent rules.
- This age group needs time to prepare for the next activity. Give your child a warning before it is time to stop playing.
- Preschoolers need lots of explanation as to why things are being done.
- Use time-out for bad behavior.
- Use praise for good behavior.
- school-aged children:
School-aged children need the above rules and guidelines plus the following:
- Give your child chances to explain their side and opinion and opportunities to express their feelings and concerns.
- Give your child choices.
- Give your child chances to help solve problems together regarding their behavior.
- This age group needs patient and understanding parents as they test all limits.
- Adolescents need to be told the long-term outcomes of bad behaviors.
- Adolescents need to be involved with limit-setting, based on their maturity.