Discipline Tips

Basic Discipline Tips

Writing Sentences
Writing Sentences. Photo (c) Jacob Jenne

Parents often get frustrated over dealing with minor discipline problems, such as a younger school age child who talks back sometimes, doesn't do his chores on time, or whines too often.

They may try taking away privileges, time out, natural and logical consequences, modeling good behavior, offering choices, setting limits, extinction, distraction, arguing, yelling, or even spanking, with nothing seeming to work.

What do you do now?

Often, if your child is otherwise growing and developing normally and is not having major problems all day long, then you just need to try something else, preferably that doesn't involve your losing control and arguing, yelling, or hitting your child.

For example, one dad, who was once a strong advocate of spanking, soon found that it no longer worked for his child's behavior problems at school. He then began sending him to his room for the rest of the evening (keep in mind that this is too long for a typical time out...) if he got in trouble at school that day. His child disliked this so much that he actually asked for a spanking instead! He wasn't spanked anymore, but he didn't get in trouble either, as going to his room and not being able to play was a strong deterrent and reminder that he shouldn't get in trouble at school.

Taking Away Privileges

Many parents take away privileges as their main method of discipline, but are often surprised that it doesn't work better.
Although this can be the cornerstone for many parents as they plan how to discipline their kids, many parents misuse it, including that they:
  • take away a privilege that their child won't really miss. Keep in mind that it can take some work to figure out what a child will miss. Most kids, for example, won't miss their video games for a few days, but they would likely be devastated if you said you would erase their video game memory cards. Other kids might miss their cell phone, TV, going to a movie with friends, or an upcoming party.
  • take away things for too long. For example, if they take away their child's video game privileges for two weeks, he may forget that he actually likes playing video games by that time and find something else to do.
  • take away too many things at once, which can often happen if their child digs himself into a hole by continuing to talk or argue when he is in trouble. Although they may feel like they are giving in to their child, it is likely best to take away a privilege and then walk away, giving both of them time to cool down before they discuss things further. Otherwise they may find that they have taken away all of their child's privileges and belongings before they are finished with a single punishment.
  • take something important away, but leave plenty of similar activities for their child to do so that nothing is really missed. Their child may not miss playing with his Play Station if he can still watch TV, play computer games, or play with his Game Boy, etc.
  • are not consistent once they take away a privilege and often give in and let their child have it back early
  • rely too much on taking away privileges and don't use more positive methods of discipline, such as giving more privileges or rewards when their child behaves well

Writing Sentences

Although this is a very old school method of discipline (or punishment, depending on how you look at it), especially since it has it's roots in teachers making students write sentences on the chalkboard over and over when they are in trouble, it highlights some important matters about discipline.

One is that it is important to consider any unintended consequences your method of discipline might have on your child. If you have him write 'I will not whine when it is time to do my chores' one hundred times on a piece of paper, isn't it possible that he will develop a negative association with writing?

On the other hand, writing the same sentence over and over again is not really 'writing,' and if the method is effective, he will not be writing sentences very often.

Writing sentences also illustrates that you sometimes have to be creative to find something that really works for your child. While writing sentences may not be the answer for your child or fit your method of parenting, a simple time out or taking away a privilege might not always work either.

What Works For Your Child

Although some children are easy to discipline no matter what you do, others are much more challenging and it can be hard to find a form of discipline that works for them. It is for these challenging, spirited, or difficult children that parents often need help.

If you have really already tried everything, including discipline articles, parenting classes, and books about discipline, then an evaluation by your pediatrician would be a good idea. A counselor, child psychologist, and/or child psychiatrist can also be helpful for children who are discipline problems and hard to control.

This can be especially helpful if you find yourself often arguing with your child or if you typically resort to corporal punishment, such as spanking.

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