HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline


What's your discipline style?

Page 3 of 4

By Evonne Lack

3. Positive discipline: Children behave well when they feel encouraged and have a sense of belonging. Misbehavior happens when children are feeling discouraged.

Talk with your child and try to find out what the underlying cause is for her misbehavior. For example, suppose your 3-year-old refuses to bring her plate to the sink. Is she afraid she'll break the plate? Is she trying to get attention? Perhaps it gives her a sense of power. Or maybe she's hurt about something else and is trying to "get you back."

Once you know the reason, you give her the right kind of encouragement and work out a solution. For example, if she's struggling with powerlessness, you could encourage her by saying, "We need to get the table clean. Can you help me figure out how to do it?"

In positive discipline, misbehavior is seen as an opportunity for learning, and children are actively engaged in coming up with a solution. It's okay for a child to enjoy the solution — in fact, it's preferable.

For example, if your 8-year-old spills soda on the couch and the two of you decide that the solution is for him to steam-clean the stain (using his allowance to pay for the steamer rental), he might enjoy this task. This doesn't mean he'll continue to spill soda on the couch in order to get to use the steamer. It means he's learning how to take responsibility for a mistake — and better yet, he's invested in his own learning.

4. Emotion-coaching: When children can recognize and understand their own feelings, they make better choices. You can teach your child to do this, and it will help strengthen the connection between the two of you.

Know your own standards for what is and is not acceptable behavior. Make sure you're up front with your child about these, and talk with him about some of the feelings he might experience in certain situations.

For example, if he's been known to hit other kids and several friends are coming over, you might explain that it could get overwhelming for him. Suggest to him that if he starts to feel frustrated, he can spend some quiet time in his room — but hitting the other children is not acceptable.

Learn the skill of empathy. This means putting yourself in your child's shoes: What are the "real feelings" behind her misbehavior? Reflect these back to her, as in, "It's hard when we really want something and we can't have it. I bet you're feeling really disappointed right now."

When your child feels that you understand her, she'll trust you. Within this context of trust, she'll be open to you when you teach her about responsible choices. ("We can't buy candy every time we see it. Too much candy isn't good for our bodies.")

5. Behavior modification: Positive reinforcement helps children increase good behavior and negative reinforcement helps them decrease misbehavior. This approach is similar to boundary-based discipline in that it emphasizes clear limits and backing them up with consequences. But in behavior modification, there's more emphasis on warnings and rewards.

Use warnings to help your child take responsibility for stopping the misbehavior on his own. For example, if your child is arguing with you because you told him he can't have a cookie before dinner, don't get caught up in the skirmish. Tell him to stop arguing about it, and that this is his first "warning." If he persists, give him a second warning, and if he doesn't stop, calmly tell him to take a time-out (these should be brief — just a few minutes long).

Comments from readers

"--negative words like "no" and "don't." I thought it would be OK to say NO sometimes to my children. The children need to learn how to say NO as well. (example...NO to DRUGS). "
"These stratagies work wonderfully. One other that i would like to see added is when children act up in public. They need to be taught that thier behavior affects others. I explain to my children that if they are too loud at a restaurant than they could ruin the meal for the people next to us and they dont deserve that. I also point out how proud i am of them when we see other kids misbehave. I let them know how helpful it is to me that they do not do that, and it shows other people how they are good kids and i am a good mommy. They appreciate the praise and dont want other people to feel bad so they like to behave and share thier smile with others instead of their tantrums. I have a 7 and 9 year old and have never had an issue with them in a public place due to this philosophy. "
"This has been very helpful, its very frustating trying to discipline but this has giving me better idea of what to do. The reward with stars for a 3 and 5 year old are really paying off. Thanks"