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Parents, Kids, and Discipline

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Choosing Discipline Techniques

The discipline techniques you choose may depend on the type of inappropriate behavior your child displays, your child's age, your child's temperament, and your parenting style. The following techniques are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the National Mental Health Association:

Reward good behavior

Acknowledging good behavior is the best way to encourage your child to continue it. In other words, "Catch him being good." Compliment your child when he or she shows the behavior you've been seeking.

Natural consequences

Your child does something wrong, and you let the child experience the result of that behavior. There's no need for you to "lecture." The child can't blame you for what happened. For example, if a child deliberately breaks a toy, he or she no longer has that toy to play with.

Natural consequences can work well when children don't seem to "hear" your warnings about the potential outcome of their behavior. Be sure, however, that any consequence they might experience isn't dangerous.

Logical consequences

This technique is similar to natural consequences but involves describing to your child what the consequences will be for unacceptable behavior. The consequence is directly linked to the behavior. For example, you tell your child that if he doesn't pick up his toys, then those toys will be removed for a week.

Taking away privileges

Sometimes there isn't a logical or natural consequence for a bad behavior -- or you don't have time to think it through. In this case, the consequence for unacceptable behavior may be taking away a privilege. For example, if a middle schooler doesn't complete her homework on time, you may choose to take away television privileges for the evening. This discipline technique works best if the privilege is:

  • Related in some way to the behavior
  • Something the child values
  • Taken away as soon as possible after the inappropriate behavior (especially for young children)

Time outs

Time outs work if you know exactly what the child did wrong or if you need a break from the child's behavior. Be sure you have a time-out location established ahead of time. It should be a quiet, boring place -- probably not the bedroom (where the child can play) or a dangerous place like a bathroom. This discipline technique can work with children when the child is old enough to understand the purpose of a time out -- usually around age 2 and older, with about a minute of time out for each year of age. Time outs often work best with younger kids for whom the separation from the parent is truly seen as a deprivation.

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