How to Establish Age Appropriate Discipline Techniques

Create age appropriate rules for your child.
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While a quick time-out might be effective at age 5, by the time your child turns 10, you're going to need some new discipline strategies. In order for discipline strategies to be effective, they need to match your child's developmental needs. 

Age appropriate discipline techniques not only curb misbehavior, but they'll also ensure that your child is learning the skills he needs to become a responsible adult.

The key is figuring out which discipline strategies are most appropriate for your child's current needs.

Learn About Your Child’s Development

Learn as much as you can about what to expect with your child’s development. This can help you develop reasonable expectations. For example, expecting a toddler to sit still through a two hour dinner at a restaurant isn’t a reasonable expectation.

When you learn what to expect from your child, you can establish age appropriate rules that will set your child up for success. For example, an appropriate bedtime and a safe boundary that determines where your child can ride his bike should depend on his age, and developmental level. As your child grows, it adjust your expectations accordingly.

Remember that kids develop at different rates. Not all 3-year-olds are toilet trained and not all 16-year-olds are responsible enough to drive. Examine your child’s developmental level when you establish rules and determine disciplinary strategies.

Different Rules for Different Children

It’s healthy to have different rules for different children. For example, your 14-year-old doesn’t need to go to bed at 7 p.m. just because your 6-year-old does. Establish age appropriate rules for each child.

Anticipate protests from younger children who think the rules aren't fair.

It’s normal for a younger child to want to be like older siblings. It’s important to remind them that when they are older, they will gain more privileges as well.

Adjust Your Rules and Discipline Techniques as Your Child Grows

As your child grows and develops, discipline needs will change. While time-out may work well when he's younger, sending your child to his room as a teenager may seem more like a reward, than a punishment. 

Take cues from your child about discipline techniques. If you take away his favorite toy when he hits his brother, but he continues hitting his brother anyway, clearly that isn’t working. You may need to find another negative consequence that will be more effective.

Re-examine the rules you have for your child periodically as well. For example, if last summer you let him ride his bicycle in the driveway, this year he may be ready to ride it on the sidewalk. Just make sure you clearly explain any changes to the rules and ensure your child has a clear understanding of the rules before you start implementing them.

Strategies that Can Work at Any Age

There are some techniques that can work for children at any age. For example, positive reinforcement can motivate young children as well as older teenagers. It just requires a little different technique.

Young children respond well to sticker charts while teenagers may do best with a token economy system. No matter how old your child is, it’s important to give children extra incentives when they are doing well.

Praise is another discipline technique that works at any age. Praising young children can be very effective in encouraging kids to try new things and repeat positive behaviors. Positive attention shows children of all ages that you care and want to be involved in their activities.

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