Healthy Ways to Discipline Your Child
One of the most important jobs that parents have is to ensure that they are raising their children to be productive citizens. Although that is an easy statement to make, it takes a lot of time and patience to achieve this. It can be helpful for parents to learn about the effective methods to disciplining their children. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on some of the best practices to help children learn appropriate behaviors as they mature into adulthood. AAP recommends positive discipline approaches that can effectively teach children to regulate their behavior and keep them from harm while promoting healthy development.
- Teach your children what values you have for the family. They need to understand right from wrong, and you can explain this with calm words and actions.
- Model the behaviors you would like to see from your children.
- Begin to set limits. Try to have clear and consistent rules that your children can follow. Make sure that all rules are explained in age-appropriate terms they can understand.
- Implement consequences when your children break family rules. Calmly and firmly explain the types of consequences they will receive when they misbehave or break a family rule. This way there are no surprises.
- For example, tell him/her that if he/she does not pick up the toys when they are finished, you will put them away for the rest of the day. Be prepared to follow through right away. Don’t give in by giving them back after a few minutes. But remember, never take away something your child truly needs, such as a meal, and don’t use educational tools as a form of discipline, i.e., making them write a hundred times or read a book. You don’t want your child to equate education to something negative.
- Be respectful to your child’s feelings. We all have feelings and like to be heard – even at a young age. It’s important to give them an opportunity to speak. Let your child finish the story before helping solve the problem.
- Watch for times when misbehavior has a pattern, for example if your child is feeling jealous. Talk with your child about this rather than just giving consequences.
- One of the most powerful tools for reinforcing good behavior is giving your children your attention. In many ways, this helps discourage unwanted behaviors. Children love when they have the attention of their parents. This gives children a sense of safety when they know their parents are watching. Remember, all children want their parent’s attention.
- To help your child understand the difference between good and bad behavior, parents should celebrate their child’s good behavior when possible. Children need to know when they do something good. The focus should not only be on correcting unwanted behavior, but parents should also notice good behaviors and praise them. Children really want to make their parents proud of them and what they have achieve.
- There will be times when the best approach to your child’s behavior is not to respond. If your child isn’t doing something dangerous or harmful to others, and they get plenty of encouragement for good behavior, ignoring bad behavior can be an effective method of stopping it.
- Ignoring bad behavior can also teach children natural consequences of their actions. For example, if your child keeps dropping cookies on purpose, he/she will soon have no more cookies left to eat. If he/she throws and breaks his/her toy, your child will not be able to play with it. It will not be long before your child will learn not to drop cookies and to play carefully with his/her toys.
- Prevention is always better than intervention or treatment of a problem. As parents, it is our responsibility to be prepared for trouble before it happens, and no, this is not always possible. However, plan ahead for situations when your child might have trouble behaving. Prepare them for upcoming activities and let them know what behaviors you expect. This is not the time to scold your child but inform them of the behavior you expect before the event occurs.
- Sometimes children misbehave just because they are bored or don’t know any better. In a situation like this, try to redirect their bad behavior and find something else for your child to do. Try to keep plenty of toys, books or games to keep them busy.
Don’t get frustrated if some of these strategies do not work. Remember that not all approaches work on every child, even if they all live in the same home. And if you are feeling a little frustrated with your child’s behavior or feel out of control, it is okay to give yourself a “time-out.” Make sure your child is in a safe place and take a few minutes away from your child to allow yourself to calm down. Take a deep breathe, relax and come back and deal with the situation in a calm and rational manner.
Also, if you do not handle a situation well or did not get the outcome you had hoped, it is okay too. Know that is okay to make a mistake. Think about what you could have done differently and try to do better the next time. If you feel you have made a real mistake in the heat of the moment, it is okay to go back and apologize to your child and explain how the situation could have been handled. Assure them that the situation will be handled better in the future. Be sure to keep your promise. This gives your child a good model of how to recover from mistakes.