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    Before dealing with the most common parent traps, there are a few things that must be done to create an environment conducive to positive discipline. Children are reactive to their parents. Therefore, you and your environment must be a positive model for your child.

    First, reduce household stress and the sources of stress, such as work issues, financial concerns or marital problems. Second, take care of yourself. Eat well. Sleep enough. Take care of your mental well-being. Now, you are ready to tackle parenting traps.

    Parents Often Misunderstand the Term "Discipline"

    Often, parents wrongly equate the term "discipline" with the term "punishment."


    • Discipline: Evolving from a rule or a system of rules governing conduct, the subject of which is taught.
    • Punishment: A rough, harsh event delivered in retribution.

    It is not necessary to be a well punished child in order to be a well disciplined child. A well disciplined child is one who follows the system of rules that govern conduct or behavior.

    Parents Often Misunderstand How to Achieve Discipline

    Parents need to understand that the gains from punishment are short term. The reliance on teaching a child what not to do is a critical mistake. Why?

    • It doesn't teach the child what to do instead.
    • It ignores the fact that behavior, including misbehavior, occurs for a reason.
    • Being harsh, rough and punitive has an effect on you, as well as the child, and it sets the stage for future difficulties in the parent-child relationship.

    How is discipline achieved?

    • Rules
    • Rules
    • Rules

    All social behavior is governed by rules. You can use games as one way to teach children rules. In actuality, children want to know the "rules."

    Rules work when they are:

    • Clear
    • Specific
    • Routinely enforced

    Rules do not work when they are:

    • Not known
    • Vague
    • Always subject to exception

    Also, it is important to remember that children learn by example. Well disciplined children have well disciplined parents who stand by and enforce their rules.

    Parents Often Misunderstand How and Why Children Misbehave

    There are four things that parents must understand about behavior.

    • Behavior occurs for a reason
    • It is acquired through learning
    • Learning occurs on the basis of experience
    • Behavior is "selfish"

    Why do children fail to change their behavior?

    • They don't understand the rule.
    • They understand the rule, but do not have the ability to follow it.
    • They understand the rule, they have the ability to follow it, but they don't know how to do it.
    • They haven't experienced the rewards of success.

    Why do children change their behavior?

    • They have been taught the rule in a way that is understandable at their developmental level.
    • They have learned the alternative behavior.
    • They have experienced a better outcome associated with the rule and the alternative behavior.
    • They have had the opportunity to learn many times, over a long period of time, the new behavior and have consistently experienced its reward.

    Behavior is "selfish!" Children change their behavior because they have experienced the rewards associated with changing their behavior, and have experienced these rewards consistently over time.

    Parents Often Misunderstand How to Change a Child's Behavior

    The best technique for changing a child's behavior is often called "Grandma's rule." An example of this rule is "If you would like dessert, than you need to eat your lima beans. It's up to you."