Healthy Disciplinary Techniques Ages 0-5

How do you keep a 1-year-old from heading toward the VCR? What should you do when your preschooler throws a fit? How can you get your adolescent to respect your authority? Find out here how to vary your approach to discipline to best fit your family.
When your Baby is: Try These techniques:
0-2 years Knowing that babies and toddlers are naturally curious, it’s a good idea to eliminate any temptations for your young child to act out. Keep your young child’s environment relatively free of no-nos – items such as VCRs, stereos, jewelry, and especially cleaning supplies and medications should be kept well out of his reach. When your crawling baby or roving toddler heads toward an unacceptable or dangerous play object, calmly say, “No,” and redirect your child by either removing him or her from the area or engaging your child’s attention with an appropriate activity.
Timeouts can be effective discipline for toddlers. A child who has been hitting, biting, or throwing food, for example, should be told why that behavior is unacceptable and taken to a designated timeout area – a kitchen chair or bottom stair – for a minute or two to calm down (longer timeouts are not effective for toddlers).
It’s important to not spank, hit, or slap a child of any age. Babies and toddlers are especially unlikely to be able to make any connection between their behavior and physical punishment. They will only feel the pain of the hit.
And don’t forget, kids learn by watching adults, particularly their parents. Make sure your behavior is role-model material. You will make a much stronger impact on your child if he sees you putting your belongings away, too, rather than if you just tell him or her to pick up the toys while you leave your stuff strewn across the kitchen counter
3-5 years As your child grows and can begin to understand the connection between actions and consequences, make sure you begin to communicate the rules of your family’s home. It’s important to explain to kids what you expect of them before you punish them for a certain behavior. For instance, the first time your 3-year-old uses crayons to decorate the living room wall, you should discuss why that is not allowed and what will happen if your child does this again. Explain to your child that he or she will have to help clean the wall and will not be able to use the crayons for the rest of the afternoon. If your child draws on the walls again a few days later, it’s a good idea to remind your child that crayons are for paper only and then enforce the consequences.
The earlier parents can set up this kind of “I set the rules and you’re expected to listen or accept the consequences,” the better for everyone. Although it’s sometimes easier for parents to ignore occasional bad behavior or fail to follow through on some threatened punishment, this risks setting a bad precedent. Consistency is the key to effective discipline. It’s important for parents to decide together what the rules are and then be consistent in upholding them.
At the same time you become clear on what behaviors will be punished, don’t forget to reward good behaviors. And don’t underestimate the positive effect that your praise can have on your child. Discipline is not just about punishment. Parents need to remember to recognize good behavior. For example, you could say, “I’m proud of you for sharing your toys at playgroup.” This is usually more effective than punishing a child for the opposite behavior – not sharing. And be specific when praising your child; don’t just say, “Good job!”
If your child is displaying an unacceptable behavior that just won’t go away no matter what you do, consider setting up a chart system. Put up a chart with a box for each day of the week on the refrigerator and decide how many chances you’ll give your child to display the unacceptable behavior before some punishment kicks in or how long the proper behavior must be displayed before it is rewarded. Then simply keep track by monitoring on a daily basis. This will give your child (and you) a concrete look at how he or she doing. Once this begins to work, don’t forget to praise your child for learning to control misbehavior and especially for overcoming any stubborn problem.
Timeouts also can work well for children at this stage. Establish a suitable timeout place that is free of distractions and will force your child to think about how he or she has behaved. Remember, getting sent to your room may have meant something in the days before computers, TVs, and video games were stored there. Don’t forget to consider the length of time that will best suit your child. Experts say 1 minute for each year of age is a good rule of thumb to follow; others recommend using the timeout until the child is calmed down (to teach self-regulation).
It’s important to tell your child what the right thing to do is, not just to tell your child what not to do. For example, instead of telling your child: “Don’t jump on the couch,” you may want to say: “Please sit on the furniture and put your feet on the floor.”
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