For many parents discipline can be tricky business. Some parents worry about being too hard – some about being too soft. Others play it nice for a while and then get frustrated and end up going 180 degrees in the other direction.
Regardless of your natural inclinations these tips can help you discipline your child more effectively:
1. Be Consistent. Kids learn more from our actions than our words so it’s important that we keep the two congruent. If you tell your child that “bedtime is at 7pm-no exceptions,” then you best be prepared to follow through. Kids feel safest when expectations are consistent and they know what to expect.
2. Stay Calm. It can often seem like our children are specially designed to push our buttons but the bigger your reaction, the more difficult it is for you to parent effectively and the more likely you are to be modeling undesirable behaviors like yelling, hitting and name calling. Remember that parents can take time outs too. Don’t hesitate to take as much time as you need to calm yourself down before responding to your child’s misbehaviors.
3. Be Concise. When disciplining your child it is important to keep your words to a minimum. Anything more than a few sentences and your kids will most likely tune you out. Plus, the more you talk, the more likely your child is to misinterpret your words or conclude that whatever you are telling them is open for negotiation.
4. Be Clear. Children need clear explanations of what they did wrong, what you expect them to do differently, and what the consequences will be for noncompliance. Don’t fall into the trap of reasoning with your child (but do try to be reasonable). Avoid shaming and blaming in favor of providing information that your child can use to improve his or her behavior.
5. Show Compassion. Your child is not misbehaving merely to torture you. It’s natural for all children to do some limit testing. Temper your own anger and frustration by remembering that your child is still learning and needs you to guide him or her towards more expected behaviors.
Following these simple discipline strategies will allow for more joyful, productive and rewarding interactions between you and your child.