The 4 Biggest Discipline Mistakes Parents Make

Learn how to avoid these parenting blunders

There's no such thing as a perfect parent. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes and each mistake you make can be a learning opportunity for both you and your child. 

Parenting often requires a bit of trial and error. In fact, your child's progress won't always come in a straight line so while you might think you're getting a handle on behavior problems one day, you might feel utterly defeated the next.

Avoiding some of the most common discipline mistakes can improve your child's behavior once and for all. 

1
Paying Attention to Bad Behavior

Avoid the common discipline mistakes almost every parent makes.
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Whining, screaming, and obnoxious behaviors can be difficult to ignore. But attending to attention-seeking behavior reinforces your child's choices. 

Kids need plenty of positive attention for good behavior. But good behavior—like playing quietly, sitting still, and taking turns—often goes unnoticed. So in an attempt to gain more attention, your child may act out. 

Any type of attention, including negative attention, gives children positive reinforcement. So consider ignoring mild misbehavior that is meant to grab your attention.

2
Giving In to Make Bad Behavior Stop

Another big parenting mistake is focusing on the short-term only. Although giving in when your child throws a temper tantrum, may make things easier today, it will make behavior problems worse in the long-term.

Giving in teaches children their misbehavior is effective. A child who learns that whining gets him what he wants, is likely to struggle with peer relationships and authority figures as he grows up. 

And a child who learns that temper tantrums are a great way to manipulate other people may struggle to maintain healthy relationships. 

Your child will need certain skills in order to become a healthy, responsible adult. Therefore, the most effective discipline strategies focus on teaching kids these skills.

Children need to learn that there are negative consequences for their behaviors. Stick to limits and provide fair, consistent, authoritative discipline strategies, to ensure your child is learning the skills he'll need.

3
Not Making the Rules Clear

When there aren't clear rules, your child is likely to feel confused about your expectations. Perhaps you and your partner have different rules, or maybe you interpret the rules slightly different.

Or maybe, you struggle to be consistent with the rules. There may be days you feel too tired to say anything when your child jumps on the furniture.

Or your willingness to enforce the rules may vary depending on what kind of  a mood you're in. What you thought was funny yesterday may cause you to become really angry today.

Establish a written list of household rules. Doing so reduces a child's stress over your expectations. When kids are clear what the limits and consequences are, they can practice making better choices.

4
Not Having a Discipline Plan

Without a clear plan, misbehavior can lend way to complete chaos. Out of sheer desperation, a parent may spank a child one day and use time-out another.

Inconsistent consequences confuse kids and don't usually lead to behavior change.

When it comes to managing behavior problems it's better to be proactive, rather than reactive. Develop a comprehensive behavior plan so you'll know how to respond when your child breaks the rules.

When you address problems with a clear plan, it's much easier to track your child’s progress and to tell whether your discipline strategies are effective.

When your child is struggling with specific behavioral issues—like aggression or lying—work with other caregivers to ensure everyone is responding in a similar manner. When all the adults can use the same language and the same types of consequences, behavior problems are likely to resolve much faster.

Sources

Gardner F, Leijten P. Incredible Years parenting interventions: current effectiveness research and future directionsCurrent Opinion in Psychology. 2017;15:99-104.

Liggett-Creel K, Barth RP, Mayden B, Pitts BE. The Parent University Program: Factors predicting change in responsive parenting behaviorsChildren and Youth Services Review. 2017;81:10-20. 

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