Ever wonder why some children can sit down at a restaurant and politely eat their meals while your little one always needs to get up and run around the table or, at least, grab the sugar packets and pour the contents out for a makeshift sandbox? The answer just might be because your child can get away with this uncivilized behavior. All toddlers and little children are like cavemen. It’s up to you to discipline so your little Neanderthal can fit into society.
Set clear limits. Believe it or not, children like having limits and boundaries. When your little girl becomes a teenager, for example, if you’ve established boundaries when she’s young, she can blame your teachings when someone asks her to try drugs or have sex. Kids with no boundaries don’t have a reason to say no, even if they wish they did. Boundaries provide security to teens and toddlers. And back to the restaurant -- don’t just helplessly watch as your child grabs the sugar packet; look him in the eye, give him some crayons and a coloring book you brought just in case and tell him the sugar is not for play. Establish that you’re in control.
Reward good behavior. Part of disciplining a child is praising good behavior, and it’s easier than trying to change bad behavior. Spend time with your child, and when you notice he’s being good, let him know.
Enforce consequences as soon as your child breaks your rules. Tell your child the rules ahead of time. For example, one rule you might have is that your child can’t run into the street outside your house when he plays in the yard. Tell him if he does run into the street, he’ll have to go inside and stop playing. If he then runs into the street, follow through with your rule and take him inside.
Use time outs. Children as young as 18 to 24 months can learn from time outs. A typical amount of time for a time out is one minute per year, so a 24-month-old child can be in time out for two minutes. Time outs are used when you tell your child to stop doing a bad behavior -- and when you tell him seriously by looking him straight in the eye -- and he subsequently ignores you. Put him in his time out chair in the corner. Set a timer so you’ll both know when time out is over. Don’t start the timer until your child is sitting quietly in the chair. If your child goes back to the bad behavior when time out is over, start it again.
- Discipline is not the same as punishment. Discipline teaches. It has a positive connotation, and punishment a negative one. Discipline uses guidance to prevent and manage problems and focuses on what should be done. Punishment focuses on what a child did wrong and is geared to making a child pay for his bad actions.
- You need to be consistent with your consequences. If you aren’t, you’re encouraging unruly behavior. If you sometimes follow through and sometimes don’t, you’ll likely encourage your child to test you.
- Don’t try to discipline when you’re worked up and angry. You might lose control and physically harm your child.
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