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How to Discipline Without Screaming

by Erica Loop

When you enforce rules and limits, redirect unwanted behaviors or help your child to learn self-control, you're disciplining your child. And while it's not uncommon to feel frustrated with a misbehaving child, screaming isn't an effective method of discipline. Punitive techniques, such as screaming, can frighten or shame the child and may not create a lasting change. Although it's sometimes a challenge to keep yourself in control and your voice down, other strategies provide a better discipline alternative.

Calm yourself down. A toddler in the midst of a full-blown tantrum, a defiant preschooler or an older child who constantly talks back can surely test your limits as a parent. That said, losing control won't help the situation. Expecting that your child can keep herself under control means that you must take the first step and act as a role model. Breathe, count to 10 or imagine a serene beach scene in order to relax yourself before disciplining your child.

Choose a strategy that works for the situation and your child's age. The same technique that you use for your tantrum-prone toddler won't necessarily work for your overly dramatic teen.

Remove your child from the problematic situation. This technique works well with younger kids who may not yet have the emotional self-regulation to calm down in a heated disagreement over sharing a favorite toy. If you have a toddler or preschooler, put her on time-out. The pediatric experts at the Kids Health website recommend one minute per each year of the child's age. For example, your three year old can sit on time-out for three minutes. To make the time-out work, have your child go to a distraction-free space that isn't near other children, toys or a television.

Use a "rules and consequences" model for kids in preschool and up. Make your expectations clear and set definite limits. For example, tell your five year old, "If you don't clean up your trucks after playing with them, you will lose your afternoon TV time." Instead of yelling if she fails to follow the rule, simply turn off the TV.

Try a natural consequences discipline strategy with older kids who fail to follow the rules. Don't scream and yell when your sixth grader gets on the phone with her BFF instead of studying for her Spanish test. When she fails the test she will see how her actions have consequences.

Praise your child's positive efforts. Kids of all ages need encouragement to keep them on the right track. Instead of taking a negative approach and screaming, highlight the behaviors that you want to see with a "Job well done," or "Good work."

Tips

  • If you feel like you simply can't calm yourself down to keep from screaming, put yourself on time-out. Go to a quiet place -- making sure that your child is in a safe place such as her crib or with another adult -- and relax until you can manage a less punitive type of discipline.
  • Avoid indulging your child's unwanted behaviors. Some misbehavior is a cry for attention. Actively ignore your child's whining, tantrums or moodiness until she stops. At some point your child will most likely tire from the lack of attention and quit what she is doing.

Warnings

  • Never get aggressive, either verbally or physically with your child. This is abusive and will only serve to hurt her.
  • Don't substitute sarcasm, put downs or condescending remarks for screaming. Doing so is an equally negative form of discipline.
  • Don't engage your child in a screaming match. Just because your 10 year old screams at you doesn't mean that you need to scream back at her. You are the adult, and should set an example to follow.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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