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The Proper Way To Discipline Children

Updated on February 27, 2010

It's not so much a matter of when they understand the word no, but when they start caring about it. Every child is different, but many start to understand the word "no" when they are 6 or 7 months old. That doesn't mean that they will comply. That might take until they're 22 or 23.

Even though getting through the day seems like challenge enough, many child psychologists emphasize that long-term goals need to guide how you handle your little one. Giving in to your child today to make him happy is not going to make anyone happy in the long run, experts agree.

Know What You're in For

Toddlers are excited with their ability to master their environment, and they're driven to incorporate the world into their experience. It's important that they have as much opportunity to do that without a parent intervening.

They can start caring about the rules if they see what's in it for them... both good and bad consequences. And toddlers will test the rules again and again, and again and again. Expect it and be consistent. If we let a child get away with bad behavior, we give the message that we're condoning the behavior. If we let something go, let it go, let it go, then explode, we're teaching a child to push, push, push to get a reaction.

Accentuate the Positive

Before time-out can be effective, the child has to enjoy the interaction and environment he is getting "timed-out" from. Parents should learn to use physical contact, such as a gentle pat or touch 100 times a day, to give a child attention unobtrusively. The solution to a child whining while you're on the phone? Rub your child's back when you pick up the phone; that child isn't going to pester you because they're feeling ignored.

Remove Opportunities for Trouble

Structuring situations so you don't have to say no so much helps when you do have to say no. If you remove valuable and breakable objects from the living room and move poisons out of kitchen cabinets, for example, you can worry less and reprimand less.

Temper tantrums stem from a child's sense of helplessness. Figure out what things bring on a tantrum, and what you can reasonably do to avoid them. If your child needs their bedtime routine in a certain order, why not comply?

Clear Channel Communications

To make sure your child understands what you want them to do try these four steps:

1. Be close to your child, don't yell instructions from downstairs and expect to be obeyed.

2. Make eye contact.

3. Give instructions for one step, such as "Come here."

4. Pause after you give an instruction to see what the child does.

Don't prattle on and on and on, or the child won't be able to distinguish the instruction from the noise. Praise children immediately when they start to do something right, and be specific about what they're doing properly.

Hang Tough

Deal with your child's bad behavior matter-of-factly, even if you're seething. When children are out of control, they need an adult to show them how to act. Reacting to your child in a calm, controlled manner prevents him from interpreting your response as a reward. Remember that attention is a reward.


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    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto

      My father beat the living daylights out of me. I got lots of goodies and toys too, but overall, I would rather have not been beaten. Discipline is fine, but child abuse is a quite different thing. :(

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 7 years ago

      My father used to hit me when I was a kid. A few hours later he used to regret his action and then I get my compensation! A toy or a trip to the bridge to watch the trains go by underneath! Cool! It was really worth it!

      At that time all I need to do is point at the peanut vendor and then I get my pockets filled! Those days although peanuts and other nuts were sold in a paper bags, we kids had the habit of emptying the contents into our pockets. Unfortunately ice cream was taboo for me! Otherwise I would have pointed my finger at the ice cream man too!

      Incidentally I had a lot of toys as well! :)

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto

      When I was a child I didn't even KNOW that I could refuse something my parents told me to do. It wouldn't be a bad idea to return to that form of parenting. :(

    • Chin chin profile image

      Chin chin 7 years ago from Philippines

      I've been hanging tough. It's getting more difficult now that I have 5 growing children. I like what you shared about the Clear Channel Communications. Sometimes, they do not follow as instructed simply because they do not understand. I tend to talk too much at times. I do need to work more also on my being tough - meaning implementing the rules. The kids are getting trickier. They will do anything to get their way.