Your child is going to experience a variety of emotions as he or she matures. As a parent, it is up to you to try and understand your child’s behaviors and handle them appropriately. The information on this page is provided to assist you in finding the discipline techniques that support the development of your child’s healthy sense of self, while helping you curb unwanted or inappropriate behavior in positive ways.
Do you know that there is a difference between disciplining your child and punishing them? When you discipline your child you are trying to teach ways of changing behaviors. Punishment is punitive. Learn simple ways to remember to discipline, rather than punish, your child. You want your child to learn to change the negative behavior, right? Of course. The way we need to do this is through teaching, also called “disciplining.” First and foremost, we need to be sure we are modeling positive behavior for our children. We know that children "learn what they live." As parents or guardians, it’s important that when disciplining your children, you:
Does your child’s behavior change when you are in public? For some, it can. Not sure what to do?
Here are a few suggestions:
You will be successful if you stay calm. Know that many other parents have experienced similar situations. Don't give up!
If you’re a parent, you’ve heard the phrase, “I didn’t do it!” from your child. But the truth is – accidents happen. It’s essential that parents teach children honesty and integrity. Children need to learn at a young age to take responsibility for their actions. Certainly, it can be aggravating when your child doesn’t follow directions and has an accident, but how you handle the situation can impact whether or not she repeats the same behavior.
Try these tips to encourage positive behavior:
Behavior issues can occur when children are seeking attention, when they can no longer entertain themselves, or when they cannot express what they want or need. (If the latter reason is the cause, it may be beneficial to have your child evaluated for a possible speech delay.) Every parent will be relieved to know that less-than-perfect behaviors are a normal part of growing up. Sadly, for some children, any attention – good or bad – is still attention. Disruptive or hurtful actions should not be allowed. This is where disciplining a child comes into play.
The first and most important rule of discipline is to be consistent. There are many ways parents can discipline a child and they should research methods, talk together to decide what method(s) they will use, and follow through each time an unwanted behavior occurs. Some parents prefer redirection techniques, others like to use reward systems, and others prefer specific “time out” programs that allow a child to change his own behavior or go into “time out.” Whatever method parents decide upon, consistency is the important word to remember. Keep in mind that if your child has developed a behavior you do not find acceptable, it could take up to eight weeks to change that behavior.
There are many things parents can do to avoid breakdowns and unwanted actions in their children:
Other methods parents can use to avoid problems are to offer a child only two choices, whether it be the clothes she will wear, the snack she will get, or the activity she will do. Offer two choices that are both acceptable to you but that allow the child to make a decision. Children thrive on routines and need to know what is coming next, what to expect. Plan for transitions by giving your child a one to five minute warning, depending on age, or use a timer or bell as a reminder. This works well for mealtimes, bedtime, washing hands, or cleaning up. Pick your battles with your child. Remember that temper tantrums are a normal part of development. Try to ignore them as much as possible, but if your child is where he could hurt himself, remove him from the situation and place him somewhere safe until he cools down.
Children learn by watching those around them, especially their parents. The best way to show your child how to behave is to set a positive example for her to follow. It is also up to you, as the parent, to set expectations and decide what is appropriate behavior for your child. Talk to your child calmly, do not overreact, and repeat your requests to your child. Know his limitations and remember that you, too, must say “please” and “thank you” if you expect to hear these phrases from your child.
All children will refuse to follow directions from time to time. Your child may elect to do the opposite of what you’ve requested. She may throw a temper tantrum, pout, sulk, or whine until you give up in frustration. It is important for parents to expect a certain amount of defiance. That’s how children work toward becoming independent grown-ups. It is also important to remember that when tired, hungry, bored, sick, or stressed, both children and adults can be more difficult than usual; however, a problem exists when a child develops patterns of defiance that increase in intensity.
Sometimes defiance can be managed with consistent application of family rules. Consistency involves agreement by all adults in the household. Children will automatically go to the parent who gives them the least resistance – not necessarily the parent who is following the rules. Also, try to involve the child in establishing the rules. You’ll receive greater cooperation in the end. Remember, rules need to be clear, age-appropriate, specific, and reasonable.
Whenever possible, try to avoid confrontation. When a child is defiant, state your expectations calmly. State the expectation in a positive manner. For instance, say, “We walk in the house” rather than “Stop running!” Avoid using “I told you…” whenever possible. The use of nonverbal communication can help the child comply without engaging in a power struggle. If you ask your child to clean up the toys before bed, walk over and begin assisting him in the task.
If your child continues to disobey, be willing and able to enforce consequences. In order for a child to learn from the consequences, the punishment needs to fit the behavior. For example, telling a child who sasses you that she is grounded for life might be tempting but will have little long-term impact on her, since you are unlikely to enforce this consequence.
When speaking with your child about behaviors, avoid yelling from another room or down the hallway. Good eye contact, a calm tone, and a level voice all help children comply with directions. Ask your child to repeat back the directions if you think there may be confusion or if he is struggling to listen to what you are saying. Be willing to repeat yourself in the same calm, direct manner.
Your child may not do exactly what you have directed him to do, but if he has made an attempt and has stopped the negative behavior, thank him for the positive change. Parenting can be challenging, particularly when your child is demonstrating defiant behaviors; however, it is important to always remember that this behavior is probably not long-term. Your love for your child, on the other hand, will last a lifetime.
Temper tantrums are not unusual behaviors for children. They are a normal part of every childhood. Most children have temper tantrums between the ages of 1 to 3 years old. However, you may know children much older that continue to throw tantrums. This may be because they succeed in getting what they want when they throw a temper tantrum; or, a child may seek attention and has difficulty verbalizing her needs (often with older children with special needs). Here are some effective ways to handle tantrums:
Need more tips for dealing with aggressive behavior in children? Read more here.
"Do unto others what you would have them do unto you" is the bedrock of almost every world religion. Most of us have been taught its merits since we were children. However, when it comes to raising children, does it work? Do we really want children to treat us the same way we treat them?
If we truly believed in the Golden Rule, would we yell at children? Would we embarrass them, take their favorite things away, become visibly angry, ridicule or hurt them? If we believed the Golden Rule, should we expect children to yell, embarrass, take things, or try to intentionally hurt us?
Most of us would agree that what we want for our children in the long run is for them to make good decisions and eventually live meaningful lives – on their own – without us. How do we accomplish this? The answer lies in the way we behave ourselves and the way we treat our children – from birth all the way through adolescence and adulthood Children are born not knowing how to behave, and they learn these skills by watching us. We must learn to treat children respectfully, responsively, and sensitively.
If we truly lived by the Golden Rule, we would constantly ask ourselves the questions, "How would I want to be treated? What would I want someone to do or say to me?" When children are treated with respect, they will have respect for others, as well as self-respect.
We are our children's first "mirrors" and they look into our faces to see who they really are. Parents have the power to make or break the spirit of children - to help them believe in themselves or to make them doubt their own potential.
Children are always watching us. They model the way we eat, talk, walk, and behave. If children think we are angry with them, they begin to doubt themselves. If they think we are pleased, they gain strength and courage to keep trying. An experience that may seem unimportant to an adult may be the defining moment in a child's life.
Children repeat the behaviors that work and eliminate the ones that don't. Children want and need our attention. We need to look for the positives by investing our energy and attention into the kind of behaviors we want to see more of in children. In other words, focus on the "Do's" and not the "Don'ts."
To do this, parents must first have the tools to create positive results. From there, they need time to practice the new techniques until they become part of everyday life.
"The 101s: A Guide to Positive Discipline" provides 101 techniques that will create the kind of outcome that we all want for children.
View the Ten Principles of Positive Discipline
The 101s: A Guide to Positive Discipline
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