5 Factors of Discipline Strategy That Influence Effectiveness

It can be hard to know which consequences and discipline strategies will work best for your child. Every child is different and discipline techniques that work for one child might not work for another. 

Although it can take a bit of trial and error to discover which discipline strategies will work best for your child, these five factors can help you narrow down the most effective consequences. 

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Your child’s characteristics influence how she will respond to various discipline strategies. Characteristics include personality, temperament, physical abilities, talents, skills, strengths, and weaknesses.

Parenting a defiant child who is easily frustrated requires different discipline strategies compared to a calm child who is eager to please.

Also, a child who is clumsy and is teased by peers at school will benefit from different interventions when compared to an athletic child who is popular with peers.

For these reasons, it's important to consider what types of rules, limits, and consequences will be best suited to your child's unique characteristics. 

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Parental Characteristics

Consider the fit between your characteristics and your child’s characteristics. Take note of the similarities and differences between your personalities, temperament, and preferences.

This can point to areas where you may have less tolerance for average behaviors. For example, if you are a low-key person who prefers a quiet household, you might struggle to have patience with a loud, hyperactive child.

Or, if you have low frustration tolerance, you may struggle to help a child with a learning disability complete his homework. Examining these factors can increase your awareness of steps that will be more effective in accommodating and disciplining your child.

Understanding which areas you and your child are well-matched, as well as the areas that might not be completely in-line, can help you craft an effective discipline plan that takes both of your needs into consideration.

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Life Changes and Stressors

Life experiences influence a child’s behaviors. Moving to a new home, attending a new school, or adjusting to a new baby in the home are examples of factors that influence behaviors.

Take note of any recent changes and how this affects your child. For example, a child who is struggling to adjust to a new baby in the home may be feeling left out and may not respond well to a time-out that separates him from the family and leave him feeling even more left out.

Or, if your family moved to a new city and your child uses electronics to communicate with his former friends, you may not want to take away his phone for misbehavior. Talking to his friends may be one of his best coping skills. 

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Consequences for Positive Behaviors

The consequence a child receives for positive behavior determines the likelihood that these behaviors will occur again. Examine how you respond when your child follows the rules, listens, and behaves respectfully.

Does your child receive praise? Are there any rewards for following the rules? Does your child gain any privileges for making good choices?

Don't let good behavior go unnoticed. If your child is playing quietly, praise him for doing so. Although you might fear praise will interrupt him, it can actually reinforce him to continue to keep playing quietly.

Offer praise, attention, and rewards that will motivate your child to follow the rules. If you find that your child is not getting enough positive reinforcement for good behaviors, adjust your discipline strategy to increase your child’s motivation to behave.

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Consequences for Negative Behaviors

Sometimes, children receive reinforcement for negative behaviors, which encourages them to continue misbehaving. For example, a child who receives a lot of attention for whining learns that whining is an effective way to get attention.

Negative attention can be very reinforcing. Yelling, arguing, or pleading with your child, may actually be encouraging your child to misbehave.

Negative behaviors need a negative consequence in order to discourage them from continuing. Sometimes ignoring mild misbehavior is the most effective consequence

Negative consequences also need to be consistent. If you are inconsistent with giving time-out or taking away a privilege, your child will continue to misbehave in hopes he won’t get a consequence this time.

Providing consistent consequences teaches your child that each negative behavior results in a negative consequence. So it's important to evaluate the consequences you are currently using and determine whether you might want to implement other punishments that could be more effective. 

Sources:

Clucas C, Skar A-MS, Sherr L, Tetzchner SV. Positive Discipline Measure. PsycTESTS Dataset. 2014.

Grady JS, Karraker K. Mother and child temperament as interacting correlates of parenting sense of competence in toddlerhood. Infant and Child Development. 2016;26(4).​

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