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Discipline Tip # 4: Buy Yourself Time

You may have read that children need to experience the consequences of their actions as soon as possible. And maybe you’ve heard that parents should be calm as they discipline children. In reality, you may not be able keep your cool and react right away.

"Buy yourself time to calm down before you deal with the situation," suggests Fay. You can tell your child, "Wow, bad decision. I need some time to figure out what I’m going to do about that." When your emotions are in check, express empathy for your child first, then deliver the consequences. Empathy gives your child room to connect his behavior to the outcome. "You don’t have to get angry at kids, you don’t have to yell. Just allow it to become their problem," says Fay.

Discipline Tip # 5: Be Consistent About Rules

Sometimes sticking to the rules is as challenging for parents as it is for kids. Sears sees too many parents turn the other cheek when their kids talk back or otherwise act out. "Parents just are not consistent in enforcing rules," he tells WebMD. Not enforcing your own rules puts everything you say into question. "If kids don’t know what to expect from their parents, they never really know what the rules are."

You may want to back down for fear of ruining your child’s fun. Keep in mind that kids benefit from limits. Rules and structure give children the security of knowing their parents are watching out for them. As kids get older, you can take a more flexible approach. Around the ages of 9 and 12, kids should get "a little leeway to test out the rules," says Brody. "But always be very careful about safety."

Discipline Tip # 6: Model Good Behavior

Like it or not, your children are watching you. You can dole out as much advice as you want, but your personal conduct makes a more lasting impression than your words. "The number one way human beings learn is through imitation and copy," says Fay. If you want your child to be honest, make sure you practice honesty. If you want your child to be polite, let her see your best manners, at home and in public.

The fact is, raising disciplined children is not easy. Despite your best efforts, there will always be good days and bad days. For evidence, look to the experts we interviewed for this article. Even after years of working with families, all four shared stories of their own children’s meltdowns or misbehavior. "As a parent, you’re constantly pushing your own limits. It’s the toughest but the greatest job I’ve ever had," says Turner.

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