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Effective Parenting and Disciplining Children


Topic Overview

Discipline should be thought of as the teaching of good and appropriate behavior. Effective parenting techniques use discipline proactively. They encourage your child's sense of responsibility, nurture self-esteem, and strengthen your parent–child relationship.

It is important to continually learn and practice good parenting techniques, using different discipline strategies as your child grows and develops. All discipline techniques must be age-appropriate so that the child understands the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Babies less than 18 months old cannot understand these concepts.

No one technique of discipline works for all situations. The wise parent develops a variety of skills and approaches, such as:

  • Ignoring annoying behavior when possible. Ignore behavior that will not harm your child, such as bad habits, whining, and tantrums. Never ignore potentially dangerous behavior. While it is hard to do nothing, this lack of attention takes away the very audience your child is seeking. Recognize, though, that ignoring annoying behavior only works if appropriate behavior is praised. Behavior you ignore tends to decrease, and behavior you pay attention to (good or bad) tends to increase.
  • Using facial expressions and body language to convey how you feel about your child's behavior. Facial expressions and body language can let your child know how disappointed you are in his or her inappropriate behavior. Older children can be told that their behavior has made you feel upset, sad, or angry.
  • Using logical consequences. Let the consequence make the point. For example, take away privileges that closely match a child's inappropriate actions. If a child:
    • Misuses a toy, take it away for a short period. (If the loss of privilege lasts too long, the child focuses more on resentment, losing the point of the lesson.)
    • Writes on the wall with crayons, have the child help you wash it and take away the crayons for a short time.
  • Redirecting behavior. Try distracting a child who is starting to misbehave. For example, if your child has trouble taking turns with a toy, show him or her another toy.
  • Rewarding good behavior. Establish rules and expectations clearly. Then reward your child when rules are followed. For example, when the toys are picked up, you and your child can have story time. When your school-age child comes home from school on time, he or she can have a friend over.
  • Making it easy to succeed. Help your child to meet your expectations by providing appropriate tools. For example, rearrange space where items regularly are not picked up, such as adding baskets and low hooks for easier cleanup.
  • Modeling correct behavior. Patiently show your child the right way to behave or do a chore.
  • Using time-outs wisely. Starting at age 2, use time-outs to respond to dangerous and harmful behavior such as biting, hitting, and purposeful destruction. Have the child sit in a place where there are no distractions. Explain what he or she did wrong and how to behave appropriately next time. Keep time-outs to 1 minute for every year of age, up to a maximum of 5 minutes. Use a timer. After a time-out, acknowledge when the child behaves correctly.

If you are concerned about your parenting abilities, contact people or organizations that can help you learn proper skills, such as your child's doctor, a local hospital, or national parenting groups.

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