Parental views on disciplining children run the gamut from a strict use of positive reinforcement to corporal punishment as a means of keeping kids in line. Parenting and psychology texts speak out against the latter, but you can set rules for your child in several ways without allowing them to devolve into physical punishment.
The three main approaches to parenting are authoritative, authoritarian and permissive, according to WebMD. Permissive parents let their child set his own rules, showing him extreme love and understanding, but hardly disciplining him regardless of his actions. On the opposite end, authoritarian parents set strict boundaries for acceptable behavior and ensure that he adheres to those rules, usually without explanation, with comments such as, "because I said so," as a reason. The third approach -- authoritative -- is when parents set boundaries for their child and reasonable expectations for him, then discipline him gently. You show love and affection and discipline in a caring way, ensuring that the child understands he is not bad, only that his actions were.
No matter which parenting method you choose, you'll need guidelines and techniques to back that style up. Regardless of whether you discipline your child for bad behavior, psychiatrist Ben Martin, writing for PsychCentral, says you need to be clear about your expectations from her. Martin advises that you clarify your instructions and guidelines so she understands what she is supposed to do. When those expectations are not met, you must provide a consistent follow-through. You could choose to talk the events over or you could choose to schedule time-outs, take away toys or privileges or add chores to your child's to-do list. Solid and consistent boundaries will help her steer through important decisions.
Punishments for Younger Children
Most child-rearing experts prefer the term discipline, not punishment, because the word implies a method to induce change. Doctors at KidsHealth.org recommend setting different disciplinary techniques for different age groups. Time-outs prove to be more effective for the preschool and toddler age group than any other according to WebMD and Kids Health. Ensure that you talk over what happened after the event. "I know you really wanted Johnny's toy, but we can never hit people to get what we want. Try using your words, and asking him nicely, and if that doesn't work, come to me." Using this approach, you calm the child, show him how what he did was unacceptable, and give him an alternative solution.
Chores and Punishments for Older Children
Older children are more aware of themselves and their actions, and can be held to a higher standard. Try taking away privileges, encouraging your child to do the right thing or using natural consequences. For instance, if she breaks your neighbor's window while playing baseball, have her apologize to the neighbor and own up to her deed. She could pay for the window by doing some chores to earn money, which would be the natural consequence of her actions. Try small tasks such as cleaning up toys for toddlers and small children, helping with dishes and laundry from ages 7 to 10, and doing yard work and preparing dinner during the pre-teen and teenage years.
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