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Parenting (cont.)

Effective Discipline Methods for Different Stages of Child Development

Discipline strategies by necessity are often age related. Fundamental to effective parenting are a set of realistic expectations and the awareness of developmental, emotional, and physical skills their child should have achieved. Their child's pediatrician can serve as a resource in this area.

Birth to 2 years of age: During the first year of life, a child is functionally dependent upon his parents for nutrition, love, and safety (from his environment and himself). Infants have no sense of the future and thus are unable to plan for or anticipate consequences. After this first year, children have matured substantially and are more independent. They are mobile, have refinement of hand/eye coordination, and have progressively improving receptive and (later) expressive language skills. During this timeframe, parents should become familiar and comfortable with the establishment and enforcement of discipline. Fundamental to this goal is that parents realize that children are used to "running into brick walls." All of their newly found skills required frequent repetition in the face of failure (for example, learning how to walk). Don't expect a child to abandon his plan to play with a special vase just because you moved it and said "no" once.

2-4 years of age: Temper tantrums are the hallmark of this age range. These emotional and physical "meltdowns" are a reflection of the egocentric developmental level of the toddler age range. Their mantra might be "I want what I want when I want it, and I want it now!" This age range has limited appreciation of both safety and delayed gratification. Techniques to deal with temper tantrums include the following:

  1. Try to distract and/or redirect the child. This works better at the younger age range. Older children are harder to "buy off."
  2. Physical separation (time-out) is effective but a simple explanation is necessary. ("You are going into time out because you kept pinching your brother. We don't pinch. It hurts.")

5-12 years of age: This is a period of psychological warfare ("I don't love you anymore!") coupled with a growing internal sense of introspection and concern for others (especially the peer group). A fundamental requirement for this age range is the learning of consequences. Try to engage the child in helping to sort out expectations and punishments (if this, then that) and commit this agreement to writing. This will reinforce to your child that you are serious with regard to this subject. Parents should teach their children how to solve problems with suggestions and guidance. Don't sweep in and rectify the situation. This will not foster maturity or independence. Lastly, reward good behavior (even when you expect it...for example, cleaning up their room without being reminded).

Over 12 years of age: Discipline is derived from the Latin word "to teach." The teen years are full of angst for both teens and parents as the road to independence is traveled. Parents should reinforce behavior of which they approve (for example, getting home before curfew) and develop realistic consequences for infractions. It works more smoothly to discuss rules and consequences before a crisis -- plan ahead. Parents must avoid overkill. Discipline should be reasonable, immediate, and enforceable. "You're grounded for the rest of the school year" won't work.

Last Reviewed 11/20/2017
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Medical Dictionary