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Discipline

Definition

Alternative Names

Setting limits; Teaching children; Punishment

Information

Frustration, anger, and occasional acting-out are inevitable behaviors in every child. Whether you are a strict disciplinarian or more laid-back and easy-going, it is important to find a strategy of discipline that works for your family. The following guidelines may help you shape your approach.

1) Always consider your child's developmental level when setting limits. It is unfair to expect more than a child can do. For example, a 2 or 3 year old cannot control the impulse to touch things. Instead of instructing them not to touch, remove fragile objects from reach.

2) Set the punishment to your child's developmental level. If you send your toddler to the bedroom for more than 5 minutes, the child may totally forget the reason, due to a short attention span. See: Time out

3) Be consistent. Do not change rules or punishments at random. Punishments will obviously change as the child gets older, so make sure you explain why the rules change.

4) Make sure all caregivers are consistent with the discipline strategy. If one caregiver accepts certain behaviors while another will punish for the same behavior, the child is likely to become confused. Eventually, the toddler may learn to play one adult against the other.

5) Remember that you are a key role model for your child. The more even-handed and controlled your behavior is, the more likely your children will pattern their behavior after yours. If you spank or hit, you are showing them that it is acceptable to solve problems with violence.

TANTRUMS

Allow your children to express their feelings, but at the same time, try and help them to channel anger and frustration away from violent or aggressive behavior. Here are some suggestions on dealing with temper tantrums:

  • When you see the child starting to get worked-up, try to divert attention to a new activity.
  • If you cannot distract your child, ignore the child. Every time you react to an outburst, you reward the negative behavior with extra attention. Scolding, punishing, even trying to reason with the child may encourage the toddler to act up more.
  • If you are in public, simply remove the child without discussion or fuss. Wait until the child calms down before resuming your activities.

If the tantrum involves hitting, biting, or other harmful behavior, do not ignore it. However, do not overreact. Instead, tell the child immediately and clearly that the behavior will not be tolerated. Move the child away for a few minutes.

Remember that a child cannot understand complicated explanations, so do not attempt to reason. Give the punishment immediately. If you wait too long the child will not connect the punishment with the behavior.

References

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      Review Date: 3/14/2009

      Review By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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