It’s important to distinguish between punishment and discipline. Punishment means to inflict a penalty for wrongdoing. Discipline, from the root disciple, means to teach or train. It’s critical that we use discipline to teach children how to be good, rather than inflict punishment when they’re not.
- A good relationship with a child is a prerequisite to effective discipline.
When parents have a good relationship with a child, almost any form of discipline is effective.
- You must be in control of yourself.
If you feel like you’re going to explode, take a time-out. It’s impossible to discipline effectively when you’re out of control, and it does more harm than good.
- Don’t yell, nag, or belittle!
These are very ineffective techniques, and they harm the relationship more than help the situation. Some kids get unconsciously “turned on” by turmoil. When you feel like yelling, talk softly.
- Have a goal in mind for the behavior you’re trying to change.
By viewing the process to change the behaviors you don’t like in a positive light, you’re more likely to be helpful to your child. Example: A mother with the goal of having her child stay near her in a grocery store would be more effective if she gave him a lot of positive attention for the time he stays near her, rather than giving him a lot of negative attention when he goes away from her.
- Develop a plan for discipline before you’re actually in the situation.
This also prevents you from overreacting. Discipline should be as immediate as possible and should be a reminder to the child on how to change his or her behaviors. It should not be an assault.
- Whenever possible, use natural and logical consequences.
Ask yourself, what’s the natural or logical consequence to the misbehavior? If the child is acting up at dinner, then he/she doesn’t get to finish dinner if everyone else is done. If the child refuses to put away his or her toys, then it is logical that they will be taken away for several days. Using these natural or logical consequences help children learn cause and effect and teaches them that they are responsible for their behavior.
- Attitude is everything.
Many parents ask my opinion on spanking. I generally tell them that whether or not you spank a child has nothing to do with effective discipline. How you discipline, not the method, is what’s important.
- Never withhold love, affection, or time from a child who has misbehaved.
When children are in trouble, they need you the most. Let them know it’s their behavior you’re disciplining, but you still love them very much.
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