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Carrot? Stick? Both? Neither?
  6 tips that can turn any child into a well-behaved angel.
 
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Disciplining your child to encourage acceptable behaviour is a crucial part in their upbringing. It is because of its obvious importance that it is a greatly studied topic where people have strong opinions. It sometimes seems that absolutely every person you meet has a strong opinion on acceptable and unacceptable ways of dealing with a child's behaviour. These opinions also seem to fall all over the map. People can have widely varying and sometimes extreme views on the subject and it can be very confusing and stressful when trying to come up with a plan for your own child.

One piece of advice that you should keep in mind is that there is no right answer. Every parent knows that their own child is special and unique. This uniqueness is never as apparent as when you're deciding on how to effectively discipline your child. What works for one child can be incredibly ineffective when dealing with another. A seemingly successful approach to discipline may not even maintain consistent results with the same child. There may be no right answer, but there are certainly a lot of wrongs one for every child.

Techniques for disciplining children may vary from child to child, but there are a few aspects that are common to most techniques that should be taken into consideration when deciding on how you plan to approach discipline and your child. These recommendations are a little vague but this allows them to be fairly easily implemented in the discipline plan for your child.


  1. Have a Plan- So much is done to prepare for babies, but sometimes preparing a way to discipline a child for their bad bahaviour is left to the moment that the bad behaviour occurs. This is not a particularly good idea. If you are raising your child with a partner then both of you should have an understanding of how the other feels and some agreement on what's appropriate. Different parents sending different messages to a child can create more chaos when order is most needed. It is important for caregivers to sit down and discuss what is and isn't appropriate behaviour for the child and what is appropriate behaviour for the adult dealing with it.

  2. Consistency- The plan made by caregivers should be followed by everyone caring for the child and it should be followed all the time. Often one parent may take a more assertive role in discipline, but it important that all caregivers send a clear a consistent message about what is unacceptable behaviour and how it will be dealt with. Now it may seem a little unrealistic that rules are never bent from time to time. Often some rules are relaxed around special holidays and birthdays, but it should be very clear to both caregivers and the child that these times are special exceptions and that there are still limits in place for their behaviour.

  3. Keeping Cool- Most children don't always respond well to discipline and can have an emotional outburst or tantrum that can test any parent's patience. It is important not to respond to a child's outburst with one of your own. Responding to a child's bad behaviour with bad behaviour of your own can make a bad situation into a worse one. Having a plan set out ahead of time can help a parent deal with their child without feeling overwhelmed themselves. Trying to come up with an appropriate and effective way of dealing with bad behaviour in an already stressful situation can be especially difficult. Even with a good plan it may still be difficult to remain calm. It may even become necessary to have another caregiver step in and take over while you take a break to compose yourself.

  4. Communication- Communicating with other caregivers is important, but it is even more important to effectively communicate with your child. We often take certain rules and expected behaviours for granted and assume that even children understand that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. This is not always the case. Making a point of teaching your child what certain rules are can help avoid needing to discipline them in the future. Try to explain certain rules to your child even if they haven't broken them and make a point of listening to your child to see if they have a firm grasp of what is expected of them. It is especially important to make an effort to communicate to young children. Sometimes miscommunications can occur simply because a child doesn't have a sufficient vocabulary to understand what a rule means. The consequences of bad behaviour should also be clear to a child before they commit that behaviour. They should have a clear understanding of why they are being punished and what they could have done to avoid the punishment.

  5. A Mixture of Positive Reinforcement and Punishment- It is easy to become focused on only a child's bad behaviours and ignore the behaviour that should be encouraged. It is important when discouraging one behaviour that the child is aware of an acceptable behaviour they can replace it with. Sometimes children may break rules to gain additional attention from their parents. Making a point of noticing and rewarding good behaviour for your child can give them a positive way of attracting attention from their parents.

  6. Experimentation- The previous five suggestions work well together fairly seamlessly and can often be kept in mind in any discipline plan for your child. This suggestion may seem to go against the rest, but it should still be kept in mind. Different children respond to different forms of discipline. Different parents find that certain ways of implementing rules works well with their own parenting style. The first technique you choose for disciplining your child may not be the right one for your child or for you as a parent. If your child isn't responding well or it isn't effectively managing their behaviour then it may be a good idea to adjust it to something that may be better suited to your child. This may lead to some inconsistency and this can be an issue that you should keep an eye on.


When we spend so much time teaching our children we can sometimes forget that raising a child is a learning experience for the parent too. Your child will make mistakes and sometime behave poorly. This is just part of being a child, just as disciplining them is part of being a parent. Parents make mistakes too, but you can learn from these mistakes and become a better parent for your child.   


By: Kevin M. Terry

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