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Effective Discipline

  • is proactive;
  • promotes positive behavior and self-control;
  • encourages self-responsibility;
  • responds to unacceptable behavior and a lack of self-control;
  • protects and strengthens the child's self-esteem;
  • strengthens the parent-child relationship; and
  • advances development.

A Summary of Some Practical Discipline Techniques

No one technique of discipline can be relied upon for all situations. The wise parent develops a functional set of skills suited to different situations. Remember that the best discipline is prevention and there is "no one size fits all" when it comes to promoting positive behavior and self-responsibility and responding to unacceptable behaviors.

Role modeling: Children learn more about behavior by watching adults than in any other way.

Encouragement: Encouragement is a means to promote positive behavior and some argue that it is more effective than praise or reward. It implies reasonable expectations (one step at a time), and that we accept the child's mistakes, as well the successes.

Attention-ignore: Catch children being good! Children repeat behaviors that get attention; they give up behaviors that get no attention.

Charts and Rewards: If not overused, the handy chart posted on the refrigerator (or elsewhere) can help establish good behavior patterns.

Setting limits: Children need to know where the limits are and that these limits stay the same all the time. They feel secure when they know where the boundaries are. They test them frequently to find out.

Consequences: Consequences can be of two types: those that happen if you do nothing and those that you arrange. For example, if a child willfully or carelessly breaks a toy, the child no longer has that toy to play with. If the child hits another with a toy, you may take that toy away. Both are consequences of the child's actions.

Time out: Sometimes children need time to calm down and collect themselves. (Adults do too!) Used sparingly, with consistency and repetition, it must be viewed as teaching the child, not punishing.

Rules: Indeed rules are useful for providing predictability, consistency, and stability. They can be used for a variety of reasons that range from preventing problems from happening to responding to them when they do occur.

Modifying the environment: This refers to steps the parent takes to change or structure the child's environment in a way that helps the child to succeed at tasks and remain safe. Be creative in how you organize, enhance, sooth, redirect and childproof the environment to help promote the child's self-control.

"I-Message": It is more helpful to try to make children aware of how we feel, but leave responsibility for behavioral change with the child. A proper "I-message" identifies: the behavior; how it makes you feel; and a concrete impact this has on your life. For example, "When the music is on that loud I get upset because I can't hear the person I'm talking to on the phone."

Knowledge, Skills, & Personal Qualities Essential for Instilling Effective Discipline

Parents need the following skills to be effective:

  1. Patience;
  2. Determination;
  3. Confidence;
  4. Genuineness and concern;
  5. Openness;
  6. Separateness;
  7. Friendly firmness;
  8. An understanding of development & the factors that affect development;
  9. Effective communication;
  10. An understanding of the goals of effective discipline; and
  11. An understanding of the meaning of behavior.

Factors Affecting the Choice of the Disciplinary Method

When considering what disciplinary method to use, parents need to think about the following factors:

  1. The behavior itself;
  2. Our feelings about the behavior;
  3. The child;
  4. The purpose we assign to the behavior;
  5. Where the behavior is occurring;
  6. Who is present in the setting;
  7. Factors affecting our ability and willingness to respond effectively; and
  8. Our relationship with the child.

Content used with permission from the Child Welfare League of America,


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This content was last modified on: 09/08/2008

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