Effective Discipline

Molding children's behavior is a constant struggle 

Whether you believe the recent changes in our culture are good or bad, our children certainly grow up in a very different environment than we did. They are introduced to the real world through mass communication at an early age. They learn faster with educational TV shows, computers, media and modern teaching methods.

Although children today are more worldly, they are still children. Parents still have the age-old problem of getting them to behave in ways that are socially acceptable as well as consistent with their own values.

Rethink the Ideas We Picked Up from Our Parents

A common misperception is that you must act immediately to correct unacceptable behavior. While this is usually true when the offense is serious or when parents feel particularly upset or angry, it makes sense to get a little distance from the situation so you can objectively judge the severity of your child's action.

It is okay for your child to see you debating over disciplinary options. Parents don't have to agree with each other or use the same approaches to discipline. Seeing their parents' independent attitudes can teach children that their own attitude is valid, even if it isn't the same as another's.

New Attitudes about Discipline Are Based on Relationships

For a long time discipline was thought of as punishment--a way to eliminate unwanted behavior. Today, most professionals agree that discipline should reinforce positive, desirable behavior.

The basis for the new attitude is a better understanding of the stages of child development. For example, while toddlers may understand the word "no," they may be unable to inhibit their behavior without an adult reminder present-that's a normal part of toddlerhood.

Equally important to developing effective discipline strategies is knowing that children want to please their parents. Nothing makes them happier than parental acknowledgment and love. Each time you compliment your child, you help to build a strong positive relationship.

On the other hand, shouting, threatening, spanking and punishment may instill fear and dislike and undermine the strong positive relationship. Because children seek approval from those they care about, the foundation you want to build is of love and caring, not fear and dislike.