The need for consistency
Children learn better when the rules and expectations are clear. If parents do not follow the rules, the children are likely to learn that rules are not important and can be ignored without consequences.
Use raise rather than punishment
Praise communicates to the child that his/her behavior is on target, thus reinforces self-esteem, and promotes a closer relationship with the parent. Punishment, on the other hand, may result in the child feeling angry, resentful, and wanting to distance him/herself from the parent.
Be realistic about what your child can and cannot do
Parents should keep in mind to have age-appropriate expectations. Demanding that your child behave in a way that is not age-appropriate, for example, expecting a two year-old child to be totally quiet during a doctor’s visit, may result in undeserved consequences, resentment, and distrust of the parent.
Make time to talk and listen to your child
Having a quality relationship with your children implies devoting the necessary time to allow trusting relationships to grow. Pay attention to what they say and be able to communicate that you understand their message. Try not to minimize their feelings or opinions. Take time to listen and understand, thus communicating that whatever is happening in their lives is important to you.
Changing behavior usually takes time
Children’s behavior does not change overnight. Parents need to understand that the rate at which children are able to make changes in their conduct varies depending upon a variety of factors. Additionally, keep in mind that for certain behaviors they need to have a long-term plan.
Examine the relationship with your own parents
Examining the relationship with your own parents can be rather informative because it allows you to reflect on those aspects you found either helpful or not helpful in your upbringing. Parents may be able to identify some of the shortcomings in their childhood and avoid repeating some of these mistakes with their children.
Ignore minor misconduct
Parents need to have a reasonable strategy as to “when to intervene” to correct misbehavior. Certain behaviors (e.g. wanting a cookie before dinner) respond rather well to ignoring. Using this method implies that the parent simply avoids giving attention to the child while he/she is misbehaving, ignores such behavior on a consistent basis, and does not give in to the child’s demands. Ignoring is a method that cannot be used in those situations when the child is engaged in a behavior that is dangerous to him/her or to others.
Reduce or eliminate physical punishment
Physical punishment is primarily intended to make the child stop the misbehavior, but unfortunately does not teach the child how to behave appropriately. Physical punishment also has the capacity to create anxiety and fear in children, which will interfere in the development of a good relationship with parents. There are other forms of positive discipline available to teach children how to behave responsibly.
Suggested steps to discipline a child.
Keep in mind that changing behavior requires effort and time, and the acceptance that behavioral changes tend to occur in small increments. The following six steps will maximize your chances of modifying your child’s behavior: 1) Pay attention to and always reinforce good behavior; 2) Discipline tends to be more effective if implemented as soon as the misbehavior appears; 3) Select a discipline method that is age-appropriate; 4) Be consistent; 5) Praise the child as soon as the desired behavior starts to appear; 6) Look for opportunities where you can catch the child behaving appropriately.
Common discipline mistakes to avoid.
Do not use too many commands at the same time. This can be confusing, especially for younger children. It is more effective to use one command at a time, so your child understands what is expected from him/her, making it easier and making it easier to comply.
Do not overuse warnings in place of needed discipline. By using too many warnings, the child gets the message there is no consequence for misbehavior and so the undesirable behavior continues. If you warn a child that a consequence will follow due to misbehavior and the misbehavior continues, provide the consequence as stated.
Do not allow your child to ignore your commands. If the parents start to make excuses for non-compliance, the message to the child is that no change is really expected and the misbehavior will continue.
Do not rely on corporal (e.g. physical) punishment as your primary discipline technique. Slapping, hitting, pinching, and spanking rarely produce positive long-term effects. This ineffective discipline method does not teach children any new skills, models violence, fosters resentment in children, and begins the blurring process between abuse and effective discipline.