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Five Healthy Ways to Discipline Children

As a parent, there is going to come a time when you will need to discipline your child.  Real discipline is more than just telling a toddler not to climb on the furniture or jump on the couch.  While there are lots of different kinds of discipline in which your family can engage, you should make the decision personally.  The decision should be based on the temperament of the child and the temperament of the parent.  When you discipline children, the needs of the child should also be considered.  Using a combination of discipline types is usually a good approach if you do not know which one to choose.

Here are some examples of different healthy discipline styles from which you can choose:

Gentle Discipline

Gentle discipline focuses on avoiding shame and guilt, but rather getting the child to understand that there are consequences to his or her actions.  It is mostly best to use gentle discipline to diffuse a situation or prevent future problems.  You, as the parent, can use humor or distraction to get the child to respond.  You must also keep your emotions in check.  There is no room for anger with gentle discipline.  For example, if you child will not sit down to practice his or her piano lesson.  Gentle discipline suggest that you use humor by saying something to the effect that if the child would rather not practice the piano, he or she could write a two page letter explaining why he or she is not prepared for the next piano lesson.  Then you can offer to sit beside the child and go over the piano lesson together.

Positive Reinforcement Discipline

Positive reinforcement discipline encourages realistic praise instead of hate speech or shaming.  It helps the child learn problem solving skills.  With negative reinforcement, your child may begin to think that he or she is bad in some way, but with positive reinforcement, your child learns that sometimes you need to do things that you do not want to do, but once you get through them, they are done.  Using the child who does not want to practice his or her piano lesson as an example, you could use an authoritative tone to tell the child that his or her piano teacher has trusted him or her to practice and improve his or her skills this week, that you know he or she does not want to practice, but it still needs to be done.  Then ask the child what you both can do to get the practicing done now.

Behavior Modification

Behavior modification is just like it sounds.  Parents attempt to alter the behavior of the child by rewarding or praising good behavior and ignoring or enforcing negative consequences for misbehavior.  In this kind of discipline, rewards should be set up in advance and not used as a bargaining chip to ply your child into good behavior.  Negative consequences should be the same.  Prearrange both sets of consequences so that your child knows what to expect should he or she not meet your expectations.

Emotional Coaching

Emotional coaching gives your child a vocabulary with which to express his or her feelings rather than just acting on them.  Young children rarely have the words to be able to express when they are angry or frustrated or stressed out.  Children experience all of these feelings, but likely do not know how to verbalize them so they act out.  As a parent, you can give them the words by acknowledging the feelings.  Tell your child that you understand that he or she is angry about not being able to play until he or she has practiced the piano lesson.  You understand that he or she gets frustrated when the right notes are hard to find or the song does not sound just right.  These are valid feelings.  Practicing makes everything a little bit easier and it is necessary for getting better.

Boundary Discipline

Boundary discipline focuses on setting limits and clear boundaries for children when it comes to their behavior and the expectations you have of them.  Children need clear expectations outlines so they know what to expect.  The other part of boundary discipline is that you must follow through with your consequences whether positive or negative.  The consequences should be logical to the child and be appropriate for the behavior exhibited.

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