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21Nov 13

Effective and humane ways to discipline your children

Parenting, while a joy most days, can be challenging for first-time parents faced with a naughty child. Your patience may wear thin and you may feel overwhelmed or frustrated, especially if your child continues on with his or her bad behaviour.

It is important to humanely discipline your children, but it is just as important for parents to understand the purpose of discipline. It is not about serving justice – your home is not a courtroom, and the parent-child relationship shouldn’t model itself after that of a judge and defendant. Discipline is about changing behaviour for the positive.

The technique that you use to enforce good behaviour in your children will vary according to their age and level of understanding. Try reading up on child development to better assess which technique is appropriate for which age groups. For example, distraction is an effective discipline method with younger children and toddlers – when they are compelled towards a negative behaviour, say “no” and distract them by offering a better or positive alternative. Kicking a ball inside the house, for example, can be substituted with kicking the ball outside.

Effective and humane ways to discipline your children

Effective and humane ways to discipline your children

The power of consistency

Consistency of consequences is key when it comes to discipline. If your child is acting up, don’t just threaten a consequence – empty threats will teach children that they can continue on with the bad behaviour. You must follow-up, whether it is going to bed without a story, or missing out on an event like a birthday party.

Sometimes, the consequence comes from sources other than the parent. If you think your child’s bad behaviour will end in a reasonable consequence without you having to do anything, let nature run its course. For example, if your child leaves his toys lying around, they may break or get lost. Let it happen so your child can see the result of his or her actions.

Positive reinforcement

No one wants to be the bad guy always saying “no”, so make sure that you include plenty of positive language in your discipline repertoire. Instead of “don’t do that”, try asking “Why don’t you try this?”, turning what could be a negative situation into a positive lesson by encouraging good behaviour.

Encouraging good behaviour through positive reinforcement is also very effective. Reward your child when he or she does something well with praise, a treat, or something more elaborate such as a points system. He or she will remember it next time.

Don’t spank

There is a long list of reasons why you shouldn’t spank your children. If you hit your kids, they will think that it is okay to hit other people. Violence only fuels more violence. Also, hitting your children can cause them to think they are not valued, which can breed self-esteem and confidence issues.

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