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Tips for Maintaining Discipline

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Whichever discipline techniques you choose to use, they can be more effective if you keep these ideas in mind:

Guide your discipline techniques to fit well with your child's temperament.

The key to effective discipline is to understand who your child is, especially his temperamental style, and use your discipline to help him achieve his potential given those talents and tendencies. But your goal should not be to turn him into someone he is not (for example, to turn a boisterous intense child into a mellow laid-back one).

Communicate your discipline plan

Discipline techniques shouldn't come "out of the blue," especially if you're trying something new. To children who are old enough to understand, during a planned discussion (not in the heat of the moment) explain the technique, why you are using it, and what you hope it will accomplish. Older children may be included in choosing which rewards and consequences would be appropriate.

Be respectful of your child

If you show your child respect -- even when disciplining your child -- your child is more likely to respect you, other family members, and other people in his or her life. If you "lose it" or overreact with disrespect, apologize. Behave the way you want your child to behave.

Be consistent

Any technique will fail if you don't follow through or enforce consequences consistently. If you say, for example, that toys will be off limits for a week, then take them away if the offending behavior continues.

Don't break your discipline rules by giving in during public exhibitions of bad behavior, such as a child throwing a tantrum while shopping. If you give in to the child's demands, the tantrums will continue.

Try to keep your goals and your techniques consistent over time. If more than one adult is responsible for the child's discipline, be sure you agree about the approaches you will use.

When it's done, it's done

After the consequence is over or the time has been served, don't ask for apologies or continue to lecture about the behavior. Help your child return to an appropriate activity.

Understand what is appropriate for your child's development

Before disciplining a child, make sure that the child really did understand what you asked him or her to do. Sometimes parents make demands for behavior that is beyond the child's ability to comply. Just like other skills in life, behaviors often need to be "grown into."

Look for the "why" behind behaviors

If you notice a pattern of inappropriate behavior, part of the solution is to look for "whys." For example, perhaps your child is upset about something else, such as a friend moving away. Maybe your child had a bad day at school. Perhaps your child feels stressed about family problems. Maybe he is tired or hungry. These explanations don't excuse the behavior, but trying to understand why bad behavior occurs can help you and your child find ways to prevent the behavior from happening again and again.

Give yourself a break

Even if you have the best discipline techniques and parenting style, there are some days when nothing seems to work. Or perhaps you've had a bad day, too. Developing skills for positive discipline takes a lot of practice and a lot of time. If you feel you have made a mistake, be honest. Apologize to your child and explain how you plan to change your response the next time.




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