If a child cannot learn the way I teach, then I must teach the way he learns.
--Anna Gillingham, educator and psychologist

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Discipline Is Hard, But Absolutely Essential

In her article, “How to Discipline Young Kids Effectively: 4 Steps Every Parent Can Take”, Dr. Joan Simeo Munson illuminates the difficult task of disciplining children well. According to Munson, too many parents shy away from effective discipline because they do not want to upset their child further by giving them a disciplinary consequence. However, studies make clear the reality that children who have not been properly disciplined face deeper challenges later on in life. Discipline is integral for the development of well-rounded children.

For young children ages two to six, bad behavior and tantrums are normal. Therefore effective and loving behavior management is key. Munson’s discipline strategy includes four steps:

1. Be Strict & Safe. Use disciplinary terms that are simple and easy to understand. Give them to your child in a safe environment in case he or she lashes out. Make your explanations concise and immediate. Children in this developmental stage do not have the attention span, frustration tolerance, or reasoning capabilities for long-winded or complicated explanations.

2. Be Consistent. Young children will try to find loopholes by testing the limits to a rule. Munson suggests adopting the slogan, “I’m the parent here and I am in charge”. Making this clear to your child about any activity throughout the day allows your child to know what to expect. They will ultimately feel more secure with his or her daily routine. Eliminating doubts means eliminating the desire to test the boundaries. Consistency equals calmness in a household.

3. Present Choices. Giving your child the freedom of choice in arbitrary decision-making, such as choosing to wear a green sweater instead of a red sweater or choosing to eat grapes instead of apples, gives your child enough sense of control and independence that tantrums will actually decrease. Leaving your child no choices in a day may cause him or her to act out in inappropriate ways.

4. Consequences AND Rewards. Do not give empty threats or you will soon find that those threats will not work. Reinforce rules with real consequences. Misbehavior is more likely with a child whose parents are chronically lenient, which can also lead to larger relational issues elsewhere and in the future. Munson suggests creating a Good Behavior Chart, kept in view of the child and household, to set clear expectations, reinforce positive behavior while ignoring the bad, give immediate feedback, and produce more motivation in the child to behave.

Although discipline may be tough in the moment, it is truly the best way to love and care for your child’s well-being.

If you are interested in learning more similar kinds of information, consider contacting Susan Weiner, the founder of Forging Futures. Forging Futures is a family advisory service that provides educational and therapeutic solutions for adolescents, young adults and their families. Visit their website at http://www.forgingfutures.com.

To read Dr. Munson’s original article, click here.

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