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Disciplining Your Child

Discipline and child development begin in the early years. For your baby’s first year, developing a trusting relationship with them is key. It creates the foundation of parent/child interactions through the years. The first three years of your child’s life is the doorway to forever.

Babies have no understanding of consequences, so a gentle but firm "no" is appropriate. When toddlers begin talking and walking, they can be reasoned with at times, but are not ready to control their actions.

Kids get overtired and overwhelmed and have tantrums. Self control develops slowly, and the goal of disciplining children is to build their own self-control.

Parents must remain flexible when using discipline. As children grow, situations change.

Setting Rules and Negotiating

Disciplining a child is not bad …it's a necessity. Often, discipline is necessary to keep children out of danger and help them with situations they’re not mature enough to handle. Discipline teaches kids how to behave, to respect the rights of others, and to follow rules. Children misbehave for a number of reasons. They want to do something other than what you want them to do, and may not understand what parents mean. A child's behavior is a form of communication that needs to be interpreted and understood.

Setting fair, simple rules and state them clearly is important. When you discipline your child, tell them you understand what they are feeling.

Negotiation makes everyone feels part of the solution to a problem. Young children like to feel they have a choice rather than that they are being forced into something. Think carefully about the choices you offer before starting the negotiations. Only give the child a choice when they truly have one.

Choosing Your Battles

Some things just aren't worth the fight. Discipline doesn't mean that the parent always wins. You may feel as if you're giving in, but there are times when you should decide if what your child is carrying on about is worth the fuss. Prioritize and decide what's important.

Time Outs

Time outs works. Time outs teach children that for every action there is a reaction. Time outs provide two important objectives: it immediately stops unwanted behavior and it gives the child (and parent) a necessary cooling-off period. It’s best to start time outs immediately after the incident or behavior and have a designated spot for the time out. The number of minutes the child is in time out should be generally equivalent to his age. So if the 4-years-old, their time out should be for four minutes. Time outs are very useful, but not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Parents should not overuse time outs. Other forms of discipline may work better, depending on the child and/or the incident, however in all discipline, consistency is critical.

Know When Kids Are Just Being Kids

Sometimes, ignoring the behavior will make it disappear. Some children misbehave as a way of getting attention, and parents may unwittingly encourage the behavior they are trying to stop. By repeatedly telling your child to stop doing something, you call attention to the behavior and turn it into an event. Ignore it, do something else and then focus attention on your child when they do the right thing.

Rewarding Children

If you want your child to behave use positive reinforcement. Children are more motivated to do the right thing in order to get a reward and avoid punishment. Rewards should not be used as bribes/ Only use rewards to show a child that they are doing something good. Rewards should be tailored to the age and tastes of the child as well as to the resources of the parent.

What Doesn't Work

Discipline means showing children positive alternatives and an opportunity to see how their actions affect others. Discipline teaches kids to share and cooperate, to learn to handle their anger and to feel successful and in control of themselves. When children are punished, they learn only what not to do. Their behavior is controlled through fear and their feelings are not respected.

Although some parents believe in spanking their children, most feel guilty afterwards. Spanking is not the best form of discipline … no matter how out of control a child is. Studies show that children who are spanked will grow up to be aggressive. And the potential for the cycle of abuse to repeat itself is increased. Spanking can also backfire. Kids imitate adults and look to their parents as role models. By hitting and spanking to discipline, parents risk having their child model their behavior; they learn to hit, just like mom and dad.

When your child misbehaves, it is critical to remind them that you don’t like their behavior, but you still love them. But kids are kids and like anyone else, they will still have meltdowns. So will you. Keep blowups in perspective, prepare for them, and have strategies in place for dealing with them and you will be successful in managing the situation

Seeking Professional Help

Some children are difficult to discipline. Check things out with a professional if your child is doing dangerous or risky things that you can't stop, if they are being aggressive with others, or disrespectful of people or property.


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