Discipline is not just correcting bad behaviors in your child. Discipline is a way to show your child how to act as they become a member of society. Discipline should be used for the following reasons:
1. To keep your child safe;
2. To teach your child what is right and what is wrong; and
3. To understand the cause of the behavior.
Punishment is used to stop bad behaviors. Although it may stop the behavior, it does not give your child something to learn from and many times it focuses on the child, not the behavior.
When disciplining your child, you should keep in mind what kind of person you want them to be as an adult. Children learn by example, so your main target should be to be a good role model and help your child develop the values and qualities that are important to you and are important to being a successful member of society. Some qualities that are important are: self control, self discipline, confidence, self esteem, self respect, respect for others and responsibility. Think about what qualities you want your child to have. It is helpful to sit down and make a list of what qualities you want your child to have as an adult and how you can help them develop these qualities. Some basics of good discipline are:
Keeping a loving relationship. Spend time with your child. If your child is not getting enough positive attention from you, they will tend to try to get attention any way they can, positive or negative.Remember that in the eyes of a child, negative attention is better than no attention.Take ten minutes out of your day to play with your child.Make sure to show them some affection. Even if it is just telling them you love them every time you part ways, whether it be for them to go to school or for you to go to work. Talk to your child. Exemplify the importance of feelings expression by talking about your own thoughts and feelings. Let your child know you are listening to them. This is easily accomplished by stopping whatever else you are doing and looking at them. Body language is important: make eye contact, nod your head, face them while they are talking. It is also important to try not to interrupt.
Use praise to encourage good behavior. Most children want to make others happy. Praising them for good behavior is a great way to show that they have accomplished this. It is also a good way to ensure they will use this good behavior again and again. It is important to be specific about what you are praising, such as, “thank you for cleaning your room,” or, “that was great when you shared your cookies with Susie.” Giving praise when your child corrects or admits to inappropriate behavior is good, too. This teaches them that while it is not ok to use bad behaviors, when we catch ourselves making bad choices, we need to make amends for those actions.
Set age appropriate rules and limits. A child’s age and abilities determine how much freedom and responsibility they are able to have. For example, you cannot expect the three year old to remember to feed the cats everyday or to not play in the dishwater you left in the sink in the kitchen. As your child gets older, you can add more responsibilities and choices. For your sanity, pick your battles. If you want to have bleeding ulcers, fight them on every little thing. If you want to have at least one minute of peace every day, stick to safety and good manners to begin with. Remember, also, that parenting is not a popularity contest. There are times when your child is not going to like the decisions you make for them. Make sure that anyone who cares for your child is clear on your rules and expectations. This eliminates confusion for your child.
Show your child how you expect them to act. For example, don’t just say, “Jack, you can’t spit on Caleb every time he tries to take your cookie!” Demonstrate breaking the cookie in half and giving a piece to the other child, or going and getting another cookie and sharing it with the other child. This helps your child with conflict resolution.
Use immediate and fair consequences. Make sure the consequences are stated beforehand, they are always consistent and you always follow through. Try to avoid repeating things like, “Mary, if you hit your sister one more time, you are sitting in time out!” Make the punishment fit the crime. Consistency reinforces the fact that the bad behavior is not ok. Encouraging good behavior keeps from having to use consequences too often.
Use consequences that fit your child. Taking away the Playstation may be a good consequence for a nine year old, but not a two year old. Sitting in time out may be a better choice for the younger child. Keep in mind your child’s personality. Some kids may be active and outgoing while others may be quiet and shy. Each child’s limits need to be customized to fit who they are and what is going to be the most beneficial way for them to learn good behavior.
Just remember that your child is going to test your limits at every age. Responding in a loving way, rather than in an angry way, makes all the difference. Teaching your child right from wrong will give your child invaluable tools to carry into adulthood.
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