We all want to raise our kids right. Don’t we all desire decent kids that will make our hearts swell with pride because of their propriety? Kids that say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ without being pressed?
That is why we need practical discipline strategies when our children are still in our hands. When the clay is still malleable and can be moulded into the right shape. Because the truth is that our kids won’t always listen to us.
Kids grow up, that’s what they do best. And with growing up our window of opportunity in shaping them shrinks drastically.
What is Discipline?
Discipline is the practice of teaching people how to choose the right behavior and refrain from wrong behavior. Punishment may be used to correct non-compliance.
Discipline Doesn’t Mean Punishment
For most of us, discipline, (at least where our children are concerned) connotes punishment. Nothing could be further from the truth! Discipline involves teaching kids the right behavior. Training should precede any form of punishment.
When is the Right Age for Discipline?
Proper discipline strategies are heavily dependent on your child’s age. A one-size-fits-all discipline approach won’t work. Discipline strategies should take into account the developmental stage of the child.
Infants are babies under one year of age. At this age, they are oblivious of right from wrong. The scratching, pulling, biting and other pain-inflicting tendencies are not inspired by the urge to be nasty.
They are simply on an explorative spree and are busy exercising their motor skills. Parents should therefore not resort to punishment at this age.
Instead, gently and lovingly let your infant know that what they are on to is wrong. If for instance, your infant is pulling their sibling’s hair, tell them ‘no’ and offer them a toy that they can explore instead.
This is the age between one to three years. At this age, your child has begun to get a sense of right from wrong. As such, he/she will be eager to be mischievous in order to weigh your reaction. They are also extremely expressive. Meltdowns and tantrums abound at this stage.
Discipline Tips for Toddlers
- Outsmart Their Tantrums
Toddlers resort to tantrums due to their need to feel independent. They want to do stuff by themselves. Power struggles begin. They will kick, hit, scream, and wail when they feel they are being controlled.
You can nip tantrums in the bud by anticipating their triggers. If your child throws a tantrum when they are hungry, do not allow them to feel hungry. Offer them a meal/snack beforehand.
Modeling the right behavior to your kids is another important way of dealing with tantrums. Kids replicate the behavior they see in adults. Make sure your toddler is not exposed to any violent behavior.
- Allow your toddler to make Choices
Don’t be too rigid with your toddler. Since they are trying out their independence and control, appease them by allowing them to make some choices. You can, for instance, give in when your toddler wants to wear a red dress instead of the pink one you picked out for her.
- Use Time-out
Child development experts have hailed time out as an effective way of discipline. They argue that it trumps many other discipline strategies like spanking where toddlers are concerned.
Time out is used to help a child gain control of their behavior and emotions by sending them to a designated boring room/chair that is devoid of any distraction. The room/space should be safe and the parent should be able to keep tabs of what the child is doing while in there.
Time out can be used for toddlers from the age of two years since at this age they are able to communicate. The parent should explain to the child why they are being given time out.
The rule of thumb is one minute for each year of age. A two-year-old therefore gets two minutes.
- Avoid Flaring Up
Sometimes toddlers will misbehave and check if you have noticed. They thrive on attention and if you give it to them, they take things a notch higher.
At such times, simply issue a warning and then ignore them. If they continue with the mischief, go ahead and enforce the desired discipline strategy.
- Kill Their Boredom
Toddlers need at least three hours of energetic playtime each day, especially in the outdoors. Without this, your toddler will wallow in boredom and often resort to mischief.
Do not wait for your toddler to start doing flips on your dinner table. Provide an environment for free play and nip their mischief in the bud.
Preschoolers are aged between 3-4 years and are in a stage where their social and communication skills are beginning to blossom. Since they may be going to preschool, they are therefore learning a myriad of life skills like sharing and good manners.
Discipline Tips for Preschoolers
- Withdraw Favourite Activity/Toy
Let your preschooler know in advance that if they don’t change their behavior you will take away something they enjoy doing, like watching TV.
Once you have clearly communicated this, execute your threat with precision if they continue with the said misbehavior. It is important to follow through so that your child knows you mean business.
- Allow Them To Choose
Indulge your preschooler by allowing them to make certain choices, like choosing which snack to carry to school. They will feel great about being in control.
- Simple Tasks
Teach your preschooler some simple chores, like picking up their toys. It helps in communicating acceptable versus unacceptable behavior.
- Teach Them To Control Their Emotions
Explain to your preschooler that it is okay to feel angry and frustrated. Explain that they should learn to control their negative emotions and not resort to kicking or hitting.
- Reward them For Good Behaviour
Be swift to notice, applaud and reward your preschooler when you catch them behaving well. They will be enthused to be well disciplined.
- Be a Good Example
Kids will replicate exactly what they see you do. It is self-defeating to teach them not to hit when angry if that is what they see you or another adult do. Make sure you are walking the talk.
This includes kids aged between 6-12 years. Their life skills and knowledge of their environment is rapidly increasing. They now know right from wrong.
At this stage, they are easily influenced by friends from school or neighbors. Good discipline at this stage will act as a foundation for days to come.
Discipline Tips for School-Age Children
- Communicate Consequences For Wrong Actions
Let your child know clearly what will happen when they don’t follow the rules. Make sure you are consistent and follow through with the consequence if they don’t comply.
- Define Limits and Expectations
Communicate clearly to your child the kind of behavior you expect from them. A brilliant way to do this is by defining family rules. Let them know how they are expected to behave as members of the family.
- Encourage Free Will Discipline
School-age children can fully understand the need to uphold discipline. Encourage them to be well behaved without being coerced. They should be well mannered even when no one is checking.
Adolescents and Teenagers
This includes kids aged between 12-18 years. At this stage, your child is contending with a myriad of developmental issues. The need for freedom, peer pressure, hormonal changes, self-esteem, and romantic relationships are some of them.
Discipline Tips for Adolescents and Teens
- Show them love and Listen to them
Your child at this stage wants to feel in control of their lives. The need to fit in is overwhelming. Don’t make it harder than it already is for them by scolding or yelling at them. Give them your attention and show them love. Listen to them.
- Set Limits and Guide Them
Protect your child from negative peer pressure by getting to know who their friends are, and what they do together. Let them know how you expect them to behave and what is unacceptable. Communicate your expectations clearly.
- Be a Role Model
Teens will not hesitate to break the rules if they see you breaking them. Lead them by example.
- Allow Them Choices
At this age, their need for freedom is unquenchable. Allow them to make a few choices by themselves. Let them negotiate with you and be lenient with them.
General Rules Regarding Disciplining Kids
There are some general rules that cut across all ages that will help you raise disciplined children.
- Be Consistent
Lack of consistency will disrupt the flow and you have to keep defining the rules and limits over and over. Your kids may also not take you seriously if you don’t follow through with the consequences of their wrong actions.
- Wrap the Discipline Strategies in Love
As you train your kids to be disciplined, remember that love should be the foundation of all that you do. Don’t allow your kids to doubt your love for them.
- Model Good Behaviour
Kids of all ages are like sponges in water. They rapidly soak in and replicate what they see and hear from the adults around them. Don’t bother setting rules that you can’t keep yourself.
If you, for instance, want your child to stop being violent, make sure your home is devoid of any form of violence.
- Set Family Rules
Communicate clearly how your kids are supposed to behave as members of the family. You can actually write down and display the rules for all to read.
- Reward Good Behaviour
Make sure to reinforce positive behavior by rewarding it. Your kids will be stirred to do good.
- Be a Little Yielding
Not every mistake deserves punishment. Everyone deserves a second chance, even kids. Learn to ignore some minor mistakes. Your kids too are human.
Raising disciplined kids is every parent’s dream. However, most parents rush to punishment without having taken time to train their children the right behavior. They put the cart before the horse!
Such a lackluster approach to discipline only leaves the child wallowing in confusion. Proper discipline involves training the child first and following through with punishment where necessary.
Which discipline strategies have you found most effective? Or do you have some that we have missed out? Indulge us in the comments.