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Non-Physical Discipline Ideas

by Tiffany Barry

When a baby persistently tries to grab a hot stove or throws temper tantrums, it can be hard for you as a parent to resist the urge to swat a bottom or slap a hand, but studies have shown that children from families who practiced non-physical forms of discipline dealt better with aggression and conflict than those who came from home where spanking was the norm. So, when a circumstance arises in which discipline is necessary, take a deep breath and remind yourself that discipline in its simplest form is about teaching.

Plan. Young children are learning and have a limited understanding of their world. They also have a hard time resisting temptation. Before it becomes a problem, remove temptations such as choking hazards and dangerous chemicals. With older children, explain your expectations, the rules and why they exist. Then offer gentle reminders and warnings when necessary.

Be consistent. Being consistent helps reinforce your rules and expectations. Your child is less likely to push boundaries if they don't change and he knows what the consequences will be each time.

Use effective time-outs. Designate a spot for time-out and send your child there when she needs to be disciplined. Remember to be consistent and use this time as a learning time. When you send your child to time-out say, "Your behavior is not appropriate. Please go to time-out for 2 minutes and calm down." Time-out should last one minute for every year of age. Before your child is allowed to leave the time-out area, get down on her level and briefly discuss why time-out was necessary. Talk about what was inappropriate and give your child solutions to improve her behavior in the future. Say, "You had to go to time out because you hit your brother. Hitting is not respectful, and it hurts people. Next time, use your words to tell him to stop or come and get mommy to help you." Always tell your child that you love her so that your child understands she is not bad and that her behavior does not influence your love for her.

Use positive guidance and redirection when time-outs are not necessary. Some discipline circumstances might not warrant a full time-out. Depending on the circumstance and your child's age, minor infractions might be better dealt with using redirection and guidance rather than punishment. If your child is behaving inappropriately, remind him of the consequences of his behavior and focus on how you want him to behave. Instead of saying, "If you don't stop that, you're going to time-out," say, "Remember that the consequence for throwing that ball is three minutes in time-out. I'd really love if you'd come roll the ball with me instead. We can see who can roll it the farthest!" By focusing on the positive behavior you want, you're giving your child a better option that will provide him with the positive attention he wants. Then you're redirecting his attention away from the negative behavior and focusing it on something enjoyable and positive.

Lead by example. The most powerful form of discipline is not a method of punishment at all; remember, discipline is about teaching. That is not to say you should never punish your child. Children need guidance and should learn boundaries and expectations. However, simply by leading by example and acting how you want your child to act, you're supporting the behavior expectations you set. Use your manners, be respectful to your children and peers and keep your house picked up and you will see that your child is more willing to say please and thank you, treat others kindly and clean up his toys.

About the Author

Tiffany Barry is a freelance writer with a background in early childhood education. She has been in the childcare field for more than 10 years. Barry writes about education, parenting and motherhood.