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General Principles of Discipline
While every child is different, most children need to be given consistent, clear rules and expectations about behavior. The following are some general principles about discipline:
- Discipline needs to begin as soon as the child is mobile - pulling up and crawling.
- Young infants rely on their parents to provide a safe environment.
- Discipline should be age-focused and should teach age-appropriate behaviors.
- Try to recognize and praise your child when he/she is being good.
- Be a good role model for your child.
- After the discipline occurs, hug your child. Make sure the child knows it is the behavior you are not happy with, not the child.
- Physical punishment is not needed or appropriate.
- Rewards for good behavior should be immediate.
It is important to remember not to reward a child or give positive reinforcement for a bad behavior. For example, if a child is having a temper tantrum, giving him/her a cookie to be quiet is rewarding the child for the bad behavior. In order to help decrease the chance of bad behavior, consider the following:
- Do not reinforce the behavior; simply ignore the child.
- The behavior may have to result in an unpleasant consequence, such as punishment.
- Active punishment has two forms, including the following:
- denying the child privileges or desired activities, such as decreasing TV time or no dessert
- undesirable or uncomfortable activities can be required of the child, such as doing chores or having "time-out"
- The behavior can result in natural consequences. For example, a child who will not eat may go to bed hungry.
- It is generally accepted that spanking and other forms of physical punishment are not helpful. These types of discipline teach the child aggressive behaviors and poor conflict management.
Discipline methods often depend on the age of the child, and how much the child understands his/her behavior. The following are some suggestions for discipline techniques for each age group: