3 Principles for Disciplining Your Child


DISCIPLINE means teaching children what behavior will help them get along and be successful in the world. It is about changing behavior and developing self-control, not blaming or finding fault with the person who is not behaving.  Remember that prevention is the best form of defense against needing to discipline your child.

TECHNIQUES for disciplining children change as the child grows and matures. You have to experiment to find what works best for your child. Research demonstrates that one thing that will not work is spanking, slapping, kicking or other physical discipline—such behaviors teach children that violence is ok and sets you up for more problems later. A professional therapist can help teach you how to effectively use the following 3 principles to discipline your child in a healthy productive manner.

Suspend Privileges: Match the privilege to the misbehavior whenever possible.
Use “when…then”: For example, when the toys are picked up, then you can turn on the TV.  Children respond better to rewards then punishment.
Apply Logical Consequences: Let the action do the talking by setting clear consequences that you can enforce.
DIFFUSING TENSION and ending misbehavior in situations that are common problem areas requires creative parental involvement. Creative problem solving examples include:

If dawdling in the morning is a problem, grab some stuffed toys for five minutes of play-acting. For example, if your daughter dresses slowly, make a bear offer encouraging words while another spouts doubts she can get ready on time. If you don’t think you have five minutes to spare in the morning, think how much time you spend nagging.
If your child consistently drags his feet about doing his homework, schedule ten minutes of unstructured play beforehand, such as pillow-fighting. Avoid doing anything where you and your child have to concentrate, since you both have been using your brains all day.
For temper tantrums, calmly more close enough to your child while maintaining eye contact and give a hug. This has a striking effect—you’ll be surprised at the result: your child needs to unload feelings, and being close offers that chance. While you’re close you can say you love him, but that you still aren’t going to give in.
Time outs can be used to help a child calm down when they are out of control by isolating the child, and ignoring the tantrums. Time out should be as long as the child is old, after the child becomes quiet. For older children, time out should be as long as it takes them to come up with how they could have handled the situation differently and until they are ready to apologize for their misbehavior.
Always remember to MODEL what you want by showing your child how to do the job.  Use your patience and practice new skills with the child.  If your child’s behavior seems uncontrollable seek the help of a therapist or counselor.  Sometimes the presence of a third party, such as a therapist, can help to identify a solution that everyone can tolerate.

Adapted from Parents Anonymous of Pennsylvania

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