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Discipline Guide
A pediatricians guide to your children's health & Safety

Learning how to effectively discipline your child is an important skill that all parents need to learn. Discipline is not the same as punishment. Instead, discipline has to do more with teaching, and involves teaching your child right from wrong, how to respect the rights of others, which behaviors are acceptable and which are not, with a goal of helping to develop a child who feels secure and loved, is self-confident, self-disciplined and knows how to control his impulses, and who does not get overly frustrated with the normal stresses of everyday life.

If you are having difficulty disciplining your child, it is important to remember that you may not be doing anything wrong. All children are different and have different temperaments and developmental levels and a style of discipline that may work with other children may not work with yours.

You should understand that how you behave when disciplining your child will help to determine how your child is going to behave or misbehave in the future. If you give in after your child repeatedly argues, becomes violent or has a temper tantrum, then he will learn to repeat this behavior because he knows you may eventually give in (even if it is only once in a while that you do give in). If you are firm and consistent then he will learn that it doesn't pay to fight doing what he is eventually going to have to do anyway. Some children, however, will feel like they won if they put off doing something that they didn't want to do for even a few minutes.

Be consistent in your methods of discipline and how you punish your child. This applies to all caregivers. It is normal for children to test their limits, and if you are inconsistent in what these limits are, then you will be encouraging more misbehavior.

Looking for help learning to discipine your strong-willed or difficult child? Read our review of Setting Limits with your Strong-Willed Child, a great resource for parents looking for help to learn how they can understand and effectively discipline their children, especially if they are strong-willed or can be described as 'challenging, difficult, spirited, stubborn, hell-raising, a pistol or just plain impossible.'

Important Reminders about Discipline:
  • Stay calm and do not get carried away when your child misbehaves. Avoid yelling and screaming, since this can teach your child that it is all right to lose control if you don't get your way. If you feel like things are escalating too much, then take a break until you can regain your composure.
  • Avoid too much criticism. Make sure your child understands that it is the misbehavior that you are unhappy with and that you will always love him.
  • Avoid too much praise. You don't need to be continuously praising your child, especially for routine activities, because it will make your comments less effective.
  • Don't focus on negatives all of the time, especially when offering positive reinforcement. It is much better to say ?I like that you put all of your clothes away,' instead of saying ?I like that, for once, you finally got around to putting your clothes away without my asking.'
  • Avoid physical punishment. Spanking has never been shown to be more effective than other forms of punishment and will make your child more aggressive and angry.
  • Remember to give rewards and praise for good behavior.
  • Understand the difference between rewards and bribes. A reward is something your child receives after he has done something, while a bribe is given beforehand, to try and motivate your child to do what you want. Bribes should be avoided.
  • Be a good role model.
  • Most importantly, provide your child with a safe environment in which he feels secure and loved.
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