Finding the most effective way of disciplining your child can be challenging. In terms of discipline, what works for one child might not work for another, depending on personality, age, and your general parenting style. Like most parenting decisions, it’s up to you and your family to determine what tools make the most sense to use.
With that said, there are some tried-and-true ways of disciplining that can help to change your child’s behavior if you’re struggling with a particular issue. We’ve outlined a few of these tactics below.
5 Smart Ways to Discipline that Help Change Behavior
Perhaps the most classic disciplining tool is the timeout: sending your child to their room for a few minutes to allow them time to settle down and regroup before moving on with playtime and, most importantly, whatever was making them so frustrated in the first place. It’s important not to overuse the timeouts because they can become ineffective if it’s something you turn to multiple times a day. It’s also important to focus on plenty of positive time together so that the divide between happy family time is in stark contrast to the time-outs.
Ignore, Ignore, Ignore
There is definitely a time and place to speak to your child about their feelings and why they acted out, but the middle of a tantrum is not one of those times. Unfortunately, talking them through it can often heighten the emotions and make the tantrum last for longer. Instead, when a child begins whining or asking for something repeatedly, ignore the urge to have a conversation with them. Ultimately, ignoring the behavior altogether will lead them to move on faster and give you the opportunity to discuss the teachable moment at a later point.
Teach Soothing Skills
Kids need to learn how to do everything, including how to handle their emotions. Rather than teaching kids to suppress emotions, guide them through how to manage hurt, frustration, and anger. With younger kids, try designating a special stuffy to snuggle with when they get upset — it will give them time to feel the emotions and calm down to move past them. With slightly older kids, you can begin to talk about how to come up with solutions to their problems. These conversations are best had once they’re past the intense feelings, but by having them more frequently, you give them the opportunity to use those coping skills the next time they’re upset.
Allow for Consequences
Some children are particularly strong-willed which means they can have very strong opinions about everything from what to wear to what they’re going to do. In some cases, the decisions just aren’t up to the kid (yes, we are going to school today), but in others, you can allow for some flexibility. As the saying goes, you don’t have to show up to every fight and this is especially true when dealing with a young child.
If it’s cold out and your child refuses to wear a coast, bring it with you and they can put it on when they get cold. If they don’t want to eat fruits and vegetables, continue to put it on their plate, but don’t force the issue. Of course, if the consequence is potentially dangerous for the child, it’s a no go, but for those areas that allow for some flexibility, give them a choice and ownership over their decisions.
Praise Good Behavior
It goes without saying that, in addition to using discipline techniques when necessary, it’s very important to take time to praise good behavior. The idea here isn’t just to give your child lots of compliments (though that’s a nice result), it’s also to call attention to a child’s good behavior so that they can call that to mind the next time they’re behaving in a not-so-great way.
There are many different parenting styles that rely on a variety of techniques across the board. In the end, you know your child best and what discipline tactics might be the most effective.
When I’m not hanging out with my three-year-old and husband in Brooklyn, I’m busy writing stories for Mamas Uncut and managing PR + Marketing for Magnolia Bakery, based in New York City. On weekends, you can usually find me at a local park or playground pushing my daughter on the swings, “researching” the best almond croissants in Park Slope or launching into impromptu family dance parties at home, the sidewalk or, every once in awhile, a restaurant bathroom. I’m still trying to master the whole parenting thing, but I have learned that copious amounts of coffee, humor and humility are involved on a daily basis.
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