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Effective Discipline

Disciplining your child can be one of the hardest parts of being a parent.  In this section, we’ll focus on how to discipline safely and effectively, but also provide information on topics about how to establish routines with your new baby and encourage compliance from your child.

Discipline & Values

  • Children are not born knowing what is acceptable and unacceptable. They watch how you behave and how you treat them and others.
  • By visiting other people in their homes, children discover that different people have different rules and views.  Making them aware of these different beliefs and values and how they relate to your own can be a good idea.
  • By about the age of seven, mo st people expect children to know what is acceptable and what is not and to act accordingly.
  • In the end children decide their own standards of behavior.  These develop from:
    • Adult approval and disapproval of behavior.
    • Growing self control
    • Being aware of other people’s feelings
    • Wanting to be like their parents
    • A growing understanding and use of words
    • Understanding cause and effect
    • Learning what behavior is allowed in the family
    • Family conversations.

You can be a model for your children by discussing and living according to your own beliefs and values.  But remember, children grow and their views may change with age and experience.

Discipline and punishment

It’s important to understand that discipline and punishment are not the same thing.  Punishment is a penalty for something while discipline is a form of  training intended to teach

Discipline – What is it?

  • A positive way of helping and guiding children to achieve self-control
  • Helps children develop self-confidence, self-respect and dignity
  • Consists of teaching and showing limits

Discipline – How does it help children?  Discipline helps children:

  • Understand the logical consequences of their actions
  • Learn the values held by their family and community
  • Think and act in an acceptable manner.

How do I, as a parent, effectively discipline my child?

  • Set reasonable limits and stick to them
  • Discuss consequences with your child.
  • Redirect harmful behavior (instead of slapping a child’s hand, hold the child’s hand and indicate to them the potential for harm then redirect their attention).
  • Establish a schedule and stick with it. (Bedtime, play time, eating times, etc.)
  • Be fair, but firm.

Finally, ask yourself, “Is this about control or consequences and safety”.  If it is control, then ask yourself “What am I trying to control and why?”

Babies- Establishing Routines

Babies change everything and sometimes it’s important to remind yourself of a few special facts -

  • When you have a baby, routines fly out the window.  Babies have their own time clocks, especially for the first six weeks or so.  You may try getting your baby to eat, sleep and play at regular times, but your baby will establish their own patterns/routines.
  • Try not to compare your baby with others – they are all different.
  • Trying to organize the needs of everyone is sometimes very difficult.  Newborn babies are very demanding.  Sometimes your baby’s needs must come first but you’ll also have to think of others in the family.
  • Punishments are useless.  A baby’s crying or “misbehavior” is an expression of a need – they may be hungry, need a diaper change or are in pain.
  • Some parents get upset because they think their baby is being naughty.  Your babies is not deliberately disobeying or being bad.  He or she is simply being a baby.  Give your baby all of  your love, comfort and tender loving care.

Toddlers, Disobedience, and Discipline

At the toddler phase, your child may not give in when it comes to discipline.   Try to stay calm and patient and remember these facts -

  • Your toddler may find it difficult to do as they are told.  Several things are happening at once.  They have to pay attention to the words, work out what they mean, get that message to their hands or feet and remember the original instruction.  All this at the same time they are learning to control their bodies.  Keep your instructions simple!
  • Your toddler may not know or understand all the rules and often won’t understand that your concern about their behavior is more worry about their safety than anger at what they did. 
  • Your toddler is also trying to do things for himself and establish his or her own independence.  He or she may often say “no” to everything.
  • Be consistent when disciplining.  If you ignore a particular behavior one day, but get angry about it another time, you confuse your child.
  • Focus on redirecting your toddler to a better activity, explaining the rule and the reason for it.
  • Decide what limits are appropriate and make sure your child clearly understands these limits.  Be consistent in what you expect your child to do.