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5 Reasons Why You Should Pick up Your Crying Baby

How to Discipline your Kids

Teen girl sitting down holding hands over face
Children may ignore or mock their parents. They may run, hide, throw a temper tantrum, or flat out rebel every time a parent or caregiver attempts to discipline them. Mom, Dad, and other authoritative figures would be met with less resistance more often if a disciplinary ritual begins in infancy and continues to grow in appropriate measures with the child. However, all is not lost when rules are introduced later in the child's life. After the parent prepares the child for discipline through love and praise, as well as, routine and organization, most kids adhere more readily to rules. The major aspects to being a good disciplinarian are to be selective, be firm, be consistent, be honest, and to be fair.

How to Prepare your Children for Discipline

Infants gain a sense of safety and security when their needs are met promptly. While giving a child too many material things may spoil them and cause them to behave badly, showing love by talking to them and embracing them makes them more susceptible to better behavior. Routines such as a specified time frame for daily meals, baths, and playtime help them to learn to accept rules. Sometimes kids misbehave when they know they are loved. Many kids try to manipulate or test their parents to see what they can get away with. Sometimes, they simply don't totally comprehend the command and when the rules aren't clarified, they continue to break them.

Discipline Selectively

Sometimes children act out when they don't feel loved. Pubescent teens, often, go through a phase where their self-esteem hits a low and they may feel unloved and suffer from depression. Parents who remain attentive throughout their children's lives can make more educated choices as to whether discipline, a discussion, or some other means of action or inaction would be the best way to guide the child in the right direction. At times, when bad behaviors occur regularly, a parent may need to decipher which behaviors to address and which ones to ignore in order to avoid causing their child to block out every bit of guidance they try to instill in them. 

Teen boy holding lit lighter

How to Execute Firm Discipline

Children learn many of their actions through the actions of those around them. They learn problem solving skills by observing how their parents or caregivers behave in times of turmoil. Therefore, unless the behavior puts the child in imminent danger, it is best to remain calm. In addition to setting the stage for your child to be more receptive to what you say, this approach also gives greater urgency for times when their behaviors are dangerous. If you spank them or yell at them every time they do something wrong, they won't be shocked by your behavior enough to fully realize the danger they put themselves in.  

Mom bent down looking into eyes of child approx 4 years old

One way to get children to listen when they try to avoid confrontation is to take them firmly by the upper arms, look into their eyes, and speak in a low, firm voice. If appropriate, you might ask if they know why what they did was wrong. Explain why it was wrong (maybe add that the bad behavior "is not the way we behave in our family") and inform them of the behavior you expect. If you reassure them of your love before and after their punishment, they will be more likely to think about and possibly feel remorse for their actions. 

Why Being Consistent Makes All the Difference in Discipline

Sometimes children repeat the same bad behavior they were previously reprimanded for. If the child is not chastised again for disobeying the rules, the behavior will likely be repeated again and again because the child receives a mixed message. In addition to the child not learning to make better choices, the child also learns that following the rules is not mandatory and they lose some respect for the authoritative figure. It's important to assess the bad behavior the first time it's presented and carefully decide what approach would provide the best guidance for the child.

Be Honest and Fair with Discipline

Many parents threaten their children with ridiculous punishments such as "you're grounded for life." Those words seem to flow from our mouths when we are angered or disappointed by the behaviors of our children. However, gaining our composure and allowing any empathy to set in before giving out punishment helps us to give reasonable punishments that we can stick to. In contrast, accidents happen and when they occur helping the child lets them know that nobody expects them to be perfect. For example, if a child knocks over their milk, handing them a paper towel and helping clean it up while singing the song, "Oops, you made a mistake, that's all, making mistakes is never fun. Oops, you made a mistake that's all; mistakes can happen to anyone" would be more appropriate than yelling or putting them on a timeout. However, if they are upset about something and purposefully dump their milk out, a timeout might make them think twice before doing that again.