Guidelines for effective discipline

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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After what I hope was a fun-filled summer for all Wise County school-aged children, it’s time to switch back to the routine that school days bring. Parental discipline may be necessary when challenges arise as parents introduce new schedules that include homework and earlier bedtimes.

Special consideration should be paid when deciding upon a style of discipline that is appropriate, effective and in the best interest of the child. While it may appear this way on the surface, addressing a child’s misbehavior provides parents with a great opportunity to teach their children valuable life lessons.

Although no one has all the answers when it comes to disciplining children, the following guidelines can help parents discipline their children in a loving, fair and effective manner.

1. Have realistic expectations. When it comes to discipline, there’s not one particular technique that works effectively with all children in all circumstances. Therefore, when considering how to deal with a child’s negative behavior, parents need to think about that child’s developmental capacities and consider how to use the misbehavior to teach an age-appropriate life lesson.

2. Communicate expectations clearly. Children will have a very difficult time following the limits established by their parents if they don’t know what those limits are. Likewise, when children violate limits, it’s critical to let them know that they have violated a limit. Taking advantage of these “teachable moments” promotes positive behavior and helps prevent future misbehavior.

3. Establish reasonable consequences. Establishing reasonable consequences is an essential aspect of effective discipline. What constitutes reasonable versus unreasonable depends on the age and developmental stage of the child and the severity of the behavior. The consequence, however, should be in line with the offense.

4. Be loving, yet firm. Researchers have discovered that the most effective style of discipline is an authoritative one, in which adults openly express their love for their children, yet expect them to behave in ways that are consistent with the guidelines they have set in the home.

When rules and/or limits are violated, consequences are implemented that are intended to teach the importance of proper behavior.

5. Be consistent. Consistency is another factor that is associated with effective discipline. Consistent parents do what they say they are going to do, when they say they are going to do it, without partiality.

If a parent tells a child she is going to receive a consequence for violating a rule and the parent fails to enforce it, the parent is not being consistent. Children who are cared for in a consistent manner know what to expect from their parents. They are not surprised when they suffer consequences for misbehavior.

Publications to assist you with setting limits for your children are available at the Extension office, 206 S. State St., in Decatur.

Tanya Davis is a Wise County Extension agent.

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