Many parents today feel obliged to control their children's behavior through punishment. Some even express worry that if their children do not fear them, the youngsters may not grow up to become law-abiding citizens. Discipline, in their minds, implies instilling fear. It often refers to punitive practices such as taking away possessions or privileges, time-outs, and spanking, not to mention yelling and threatening — in fact, "losing it" to make a point and to maintain control. But all these assumptions are either exaggerated or flat-out wrong.
Of course, living with limits and respecting rules is essential to long-range life success, and kids actually feel better knowing that their parents will help them to manage strong, unwelcome impulses which they are still too young to control on their own. But there is no need to instill fear. Virtually all small children already fear the loss of their parents' love and approval. They know they are just learning what pleases and displeases their elders.
The best way to teach your child how to behave is, to borrow a line from an old popular tune, "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative." Research has shown clearly that positive rewards, praise, and admiration are far more powerful than threats and punishment. Children who are repeatedly rebuked and punished may even conclude that getting their parents' approval is hopeless, which can lead to still angrier, more rebellious behavior.
- When Adults Disagree
Teachers and caregivers are also confused about how to discipline. Too often, parents are led to believe that it is they, the parents, who are at fault, if their children cross some behavioral line. Rebuking parents can make them even more desperate to control their children's behavior. Nothing is accomplished when parents and caregivers are blaming each other or otherwise at odds.
And it is not only the school and home that might not be in synch about behavioral expectations. Two parents, even in intact marriages, often disagree about what to expect from their children at what age and how to impart those expectations. One parent may consider the other's discipline style very strict and rigid, while the other thinks her partner's way of disciplining is dangerously lenient.
- What to Expect
How much self-control and compliance can you expect from your 3 to 5 year old? At this phase of development, children are dealing with hidden jealousies and anger about not being the most important or powerful member of the family. In their minds, there is overwhelming competition for that favorite spot. Two parents (or a parent and an adult partner) seem to have a "closed door" relationship that naturally shuts out a young child. Brothers and sisters of all ages, but particularly younger ones, sometimes seem to take priority. Sharing things, and even more so, sharing attention, does not come naturally to small children. It is only the boundless need for your love and approval that allows them ultimately to accept sharing. And all of this takes time.
Of course, that does not mean you should decide that "anything goes." Set limits, firmly, but not harshly. And despite her grumbling, your young child does appreciate guidance and limit-setting, as long as:
- You are not always saying "No" and rarely saying "Yes"
- Your tone is not universally impatient and punitive
- You do not humiliate your child
Everyone has good and bad days, including parents, who may be preoccupied by other life issues that interfere with measured disciplining and joy in watching each child slowly grow more reasonable and cooperative. Then too, some parents have the opposite worry: their concern is about how to set reasonable behavioral limits without doing harm either to the child's self-image or to the parent-child relationship. But remember, a child afloat without boundaries is no happier than a child who feels humiliated by threats and harsh punishment. Most children know that by setting suitable limits, Mommy and Daddy are providing the love and protection they need.
Home >> Child Discipline
Child Discipline - What is it?
Child discipline is one of the most important elements of successful parenting, yet more and more, parents just don't know what to do. Discipline (or training) might simply be defined as a process to help children learn appropriate behaviors and make good choices. In addition, loving, effective discipline aids a child in exercising self-control, accountability, and mutual respect.
Through proper discipline, children learn how to function in a family and society that is full of boundaries, rules, and laws by which we all must abide. With it, children gain a sense of security, protection, and often feel accomplishment. Without proper discipline, children are at risk for a variety of behavioral and emotional problems.
Child Discipline - How Does it Work?
How do we effectively implement child discipline? The Bible says parents have a God-given responsibility to train their child in the way he should go. That challenge often requires that we first learn to discipline ourselves in the matters of child rearing. Whether parenting skills come naturally or we learn them through trial and error, they are accomplished by consistency, encouragement, and example. The importance of these tools cannot be expressed enough.
Here are some effective child discipline techniques using instruction:
- State boundaries and commands clearly and concisely. As parents, we cannot flip-flop when children try to bargain or negotiate - and they will. Children will test us to see if we will give in to their persuasive pleas (no matter their age).
- We must deliver our instructions calmly, yet steadfastly, not as a quivering request. It is more effective to say, "Do not go into the street. Stay in our yard," instead of "Mommy doesn't want you to leave the yard, ok?" Children must know when parents are serious.
- Our authority must be clearly, consistently established. Use only the necessary words, and teach your children to develop eye contact and listening skills. Show, by example, that you listen to them as you expect them to listen.
- Remember to make rewards and disciplinary consequences not only age appropriate, but also task appropriate. Don't over-punish minor misbehaviors.
- Teach your child that all actions bring consequences. Encourage them when they make good choices. They need to know the benefits of obeying and making good choices, as well as the negative consequences for disobedience.
- State directives/results and follow through; don't issue idle threats. Give predictable consequences, such as, "If you behave in this way, this will happen."
- Teach them good and moral behaviors by displaying your own good and moral behaviors. Go to church as a family. Plan healthy family activities that promote good morals and "together" time. You will soon see your child mirror your values and morals. Child discipline and training does not occur in a vacuum. Their behaviors are formed within the context of what they witness in their primary teachers.
Child Discipline - When Should it Begin?
Child discipline should start in the beginning. You should enjoy holding, cuddling, and talking with your baby. Studies have reported that infants respond to the sounds of the human voice. Talking to your child early may help in your child's brain development and train them to know what we expect by our tone (i.e. "Mommy loves you" or "It's time to go to sleep now").
Your baby will learn very quickly that crying brings response. When a child is hungry and cries, it gets fed. Begin training your infant to know the times he will be held and cuddled and the times he needs to be put in his crib. Speaking coupled with action is where child training should begin.
Most new parents think about discipline only after negative behaviors begin. Your child does not automatically know what is expected; you must spend time teaching him. While we encourage our children to learn to make choices, they need our guidance. It is to their benefit (and ours) to lovingly lead them into compliance with praise for the positives. From the start, put forth effort in your responsibility as a parent. Your child will thank you for it.
When should a parent being disciplining their children? Learn why it is important in their development and basic principles to make it effective.
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