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Methods of Child Discipline

Parenting and Child Care

When it comes to child discipline, there are numerous opinions and methodologies. While traditional methods of discipline such as corporal punishment have fallen out of favor, many parents are employing other methods such as time-outs and rewarding positive behavior. Disciplining your child can be a difficult balancing act, and the appropriate method of child discipline differs for every family and even sometimes for every individual child.

Methods of Discipline

There are numerous different methods of discipline that parents have tried over the ages. All children misbehave at times, and the essence of disciplining your child is to try to curb that misbehavior and to help your child make better decisions in the future. Typically, this involves a combination of approaches, involving both positive and negative reinforcement. Furthermore, your disciplining method will likely change as your child grows older and is better able to reason.

The major methods of discipline include:

  • Active Listening and Emotional Responding
  • Boundary/Limit Setting
  • Behavior Modification

Active Listening and Emotional Responding

This method of discipline is not so much about consequences and rewards, but is instead about getting to the root of why your child behaves the way he does. For parents practicing active listening, when a child misbehaves or does negative behavior, the key is to talk to the child.

Generally, the first step is finding out why the child did the negative behavior. This involves asking open-ended questions and mirroring the answers back to your child. For example, if your daughter hits her brother, you could ask your child “Why did you hit your brother.” If your child says, “because he changed the TV channel,” you would then ask why it bothered her that he changed the TV channel.

Depending upon the answer, you continue to question until you get to the root of the problem. Once you identify the cause, you and your child can discuss both the root cause of the bad behavior and brainstorm other, more positive methods of resolving the issue. So, in the above example if it ultimately becomes clear that your daughter was upset because she feels that your son gets more TV time, you could discuss the reasoning behind why he gets more TV time or solutions to change the system to make it more fair.

You could then speak with your daughter about more constructive things she could do if she is upset at her brother, such as talking to you or asking him nicely not to change the channel when she is watching something.

Boundary/Limit Setting

Boundary/limit setting involves setting the limits of acceptable behavior and explaining clear consequences when your child steps outside those limits. With younger children, parents should set and explain the boundaries themselves. With older children, parents and children can discuss and negotiate boundaries together, finding a mutually agreeable solution.

When a child misbehaves, you can discuss how and why the behavior falls outside of the boundaries. You can then explain and impose the consequences of the behavior. The consequences should be clearly stated before the negative behavior occurs when the boundaries are explained.

If a new situation arises, you can set the boundaries and explain the consequences and then give your child the option to stop the behavior or continue and face the penalty. For example, if your child is screaming in the groceries store, you could explain” Screaming is unacceptable behavior. You can either stop screaming, or you can continue to scream and we will leave the grocery store without buying any deserts for the week.” This way, you child clearly understands the consequences of his action and can make an informed choice about what he wants to do.

Behavior Modification

Behavior modification involves aiming to alter your child’s behavior by rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior. Rewards can include praise or other tangible rewards. A chart in which your child gets a gold star each day that he is ready to go to school on time would be an example of a reward. Punishments can include negative consequences, such as time outs or loss of privileges. Some traditional parents use spanking as a punishment, but most studies demonstrate that spanking is no more effective and may in fact be less effective then other methods of punishment.

This method of child discipline can be used alone, or in conjunction with the other methods of child discipline discussed above.

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