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Disciplining Children

I get lots of questions about disciplining children:
  • What's the most effective way to discipline a child?
  • Does time-out work to correct my child's behavior?
  • Child Discipline: How do I get my kids to do what I want?
  • Should I punish my children?
  • Discipline a child or let them be free spirits?
I often talk about what are realistic expectations for your child's behavior, and being aware of the language you use when disciplining children. Are you telling them what you want, or is your emphasis on what you don't want?

The best child discipline is to put far more energy into reinforcing good behavior rather than contributing your energy to undesirable child behaviour.

Child Discipline = Punishments?

cross preschooler

Teaching children to make amends for bad behavior or help them learn self discipline, rather than using punishments is far more effective as your method for disciplining children. Children act up when they have unmet needs and helping them to learn ways of satisfying those needs without hurting others is an important skill for a child to master.

Parents who get angry and yell at their children to make them behave better, are really only teaching them either compliance through fear or that yelling to get what you want is a good idea.

It is far more effective to look at it from your child's point of view. What are they trying to achieve by their bad behavior? And what are you wanting will disciplining children? Finding ways that meet both needs is better than punishment and withdrawal of your approval.

What About Time Out?

Many parents ask me about punishments and I get heaps of questions about using time-out to as a method of child discipline. I am not a big fan of time out if it is used as a punishment. Or indeed anything used to punish.

Punishment sets you up to have power and control in a way that I believe is counter-productive. It does nothing to teach your child to treat others with respect. Punishment is teaching your child to feel bad, to feel ashamed of their feelings, to believe you only love them when they behave the way you think they should.

Time Out Quote By Annie Desantis

However, time-out can be useful for you! If you are going to react with anger - then take yourself off until you can connect back to your loving, centered place. You are much more likely then to deal with the issues productively. You are also modeling to your child that they can use time-out themselves as a time to re-group.

Time out can be used as a way to teach our kids to take a breath and gain control. When kids are having a meltdown, instead of treating them as naughty kids, teach them ways to blow off steam that are not destructive.

For example, "do you need some time in the back garden blowing off steam?" Or, "how about we take a break here and find something that makes us all feel better?"

Many parenting experts teach the use of time-out to be a time of boredom and withdrawing stimulation and fun. My thinking is this is to manipulate them into wanting to comply out of boredom, not because they feel loving or happy or excited to do what you want.

It isn't teaching them anything about self-motivation or any better ways to get their needs met. No wonder we grow up with such messy ways of relating!

Interrupt Harmful Child Behavior

Sure, if one child is being hurt then you need to intervene quickly, but do it from a loving place - Whoa! I can see you are getting really angry, lets see if we can work this out better. Both children in a conflict are contributing to the dynamic. So helping each child to get what they want, with respect for the other is far more productive. It may mean they do play separately for a while - but not as a punishment for not playing nicely.

I also challenge parents to be aware of what drives you in your wanting your child to behave differently. Are you worrying about what other people think? Are you running on automatic based on old beliefs, such as how your parent's raised you? Whose needs are more valid - yours or your child's? On the whole we tend to think if we have fed and clothed our children then after that our needs are more important.

Children need to be loved for who they are, not how they behave. Their natural instinct is to connect, play, smile, and enjoy themselves. Think of a tiny baby, they just respond to the interaction around them. It is our behavior that teaches them it is not OK to be angry or that we disapprove of their actions.

Teach Skills Versus Child Discipline

I work from the premise that kids need to learn new skills in order to behave differently. For many years I have run Super Skills 4 Kids as an extensive course teaching kids (and parents) to solve problems, and reach their goals - be it a skill goal, or behavioral goal.

I am very excited to have finally re-developed this course into an online, home-study course that is accessary to lots more families.

To find out more visit our Super Skills 4 Kids page.

Parenting Questions

Throughout the site you'll find tips to inspire or support you in disciplining children with love and respect, and empowering your children to develop their internal guidance and self discipline.

You can also get your questions answered online with our mini-coaching service, Ask Annie.

More Ideas For Disciplining Children

Child Development
One of the keys to understanding child behavior, and what might be appropriate for disciplining children, is understanding their stage of development. This article has an overview with links to more in depth stages.

Defiant Children are a parent's worst nightmare - how do you cope with child behavior that seems to be destroying the family? Most parents want child modification programs to radically change the child! Read my pointers, plus there is a recommendation for a very good program that will help with extreme child behavior.

More Ideas For Disciplining Children
Are your Kids Misbehaving? Can bad behaviour be a good thing? For more ideas dealing with difficult issues, read this article on child behavior.

Naughty Kids?
Figuring out the best ways for disciplining children is not always easy. More tips and ideas in this article.

Teen Problems
Teenage years can be a delight and a challenge for many parents. Heres some ideas on handling some of those tricky times!

Teenage Behavior
This Audio answers questions from readers about communicating with teenagers. You can listen to it from the page.

magnetic responsibility chart

Magnetic Responsibility Chart

This Melissa and Doug Rewards Chart is a great incentive for kids to complete their chores or to learn better behavior or taking responsibility for themselves.

It is totally reusable, with a white board section, plus the magnets show them how well they are doing.

Covering tasks like picking up the toys, getting dressed in the morning, emptying the dishwasher or teeth brushing etc, and then behavioral achievements, such as no fighting, or whining, being respectful and polite - reinforcing those pleases and thankyous!

With disciplining children it is much better to put energy into reinforcing the things they do well, rather than punishing when they act up. You can build in a reward for the end of the week if they get all their magnets filled - or have earned a certain number - or you can just have them put a magnet up as the reward.

Like all Melissa and Doug toys, they do the research, and test them out on their own children, and a team of families. As always, they come up trumps - this is a great tool for families with younger children.

Don't think your teens will be too motivated by cute magnets though!

Problem Solving 4 Kids
Only $12.99

Problem Solving 4 Kids E-book

Learn my 7 Step Problem Solving 4 Kids Process
A step by step guide to teach your kids to be solution orientated.

Super Skills 4 Kids

As a Parent Coach, I love empowering and inspiring parents, but it is much more rewarding to see children learning skills that will set them up for life.
Annie Desantis

Parents must get across the idea that "I love you always, but sometimes I do not love your behavior."

Amy Vanderbilt


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