Parenting and discipline can be a tricky line to walk. While most young children have their parents wrapped around their little fingers, it’s also important to set rules and expectations while kids are young. Not doing so can lead to major headaches for parents as your children grow. Ultimately, it’s your job to set rules for your children and keep them accountable with consequences when those rules are broken.

Children aren’t born with social skills, so it’s normal for them to develop a survival of the fittest mentality at a young age. That’s why it’s crucial to teach your children how to act properly and safely from as young as the baby and toddler years. The key to successfully disciplining your child is patience and consistency. The more you stick with your guns, the more embedded your expectations will be in your child’s memory. But sometimes it’s not as easy and simple as it sounds. Let’s take a closer look at some helpful tips for parenting and discipline.

Helpful Tips to Discipline Young Children

Disciplining children is hard! The good news is that you’re not alone. We’ve put together a list of helpful tips given to us by other parents as they navigated the struggles of being successful disciplinarians.

1.   Set Goals as a Family Unit

When it comes to discipline, you’ll never be successful if you don’t have everyone on the same page. Sit down with all parents involved and set goals for what you expect from your children. This will help everyone stay consistent when it comes to rules and consequences. Keep in mind that disciplining goals should be focused on the big picture. Focusing on specific issues can cause you to miss the point of discipline altogether. Subjective goals to avoid are:

  • Stop temper tantrums
  • Eliminate your child’s ability to talk back without consequences
  • End sibling rivalry
  • Curb disrespectful attitudes
  • Put an end to everyday battles

Instead of focusing on these specific and short-sighted goals, sit down and talk about long-term objectives. You should aim to teach your children how to behave rather than punishing them for their natural reactions in the growing years. Pick a few adjectives you hope to use to describe your child as they grow. Then target your disciplining to meet those goals. Do you want your child to be hard-working and self-sufficient? Is your goal to raise a compassionate, generous, and respectful adult? As you navigate a discipline method that works for your family, constantly ask yourself if the methods you use to instruct your child will help them be more like the adjectives you’ve chosen.

2.   Expect Challenges

There is no way to successfully discipline children without challenges. Certain situations will trigger bad behaviors. Specific times of day will be more difficult to meet your expectations than others. For example, if your child is tired, it won’t be easy to reason with them. Roll with the challenges and don’t get too caught up in the rough spots.

3.   Give Your Child Choices

As you try to set expectations for your children, give them choices. This will help ease the struggles and make your children feel like they have an option. Keep options to two to three choices focused on what you want your child to accomplish. Offering too many options will make things more difficult. For example, ask your child if they want to put their shoes on first or their coat.

4.   Don’t Yell

Yelling is one of the most ineffective ways to discipline a child. This goes back to discipline methods. Does yelling teach your child how to be respectful to others? Or does it teach them to raise their voices when something bothers them? Instead of yelling, change your tone of voice. When it comes to disciplining children, it’s not the volume but the tone of your voice that gets results.

5.   Lead by Example

It’s no secret that children love to mimic the adults in their life. If you are calm under pressure, your children will learn to do the same. Be a good role model. If you fly off the handle when you are upset, your children will learn to do the same. Remember, they are always watching. Give them something positive to take in.

6.   Pick Your Battles

If you constantly say no to or discipline your children, your efforts will lose their effectiveness. Prioritize their behaviors by significance. Let go of the issues that don’t really matter and come down hard on those that do. Ignoring the small issues is also an effective way to get kids to change their behavior. If they don’t get a rise out of you, they will get tired of making the effort.

7.   Keep Your Lectures Short and Sweet

Children do better when you get straight to the point. Trying to overly explain your discipline methods will fall to deaf ears when it comes to children. Speak in short sentences. Saying something like “we don’t hit in this house because it’s not night and it can hurt someone,” will not be effective. Instead, say “no hitting.” This allows you to be stern and effective.

8.   Don’t Back Down to Avoid Meltdowns

One of the biggest failures parents make is backing down then their children have a meltdown. Giving in to escape a tantrum teaches your children that if they act out enough, you’ll change your mind. If you decide your child can’t do something or needs to stop doing something, stick to your guns. It’ll help mold better behaviors and teach your children you mean business.

9.   Act Immediately

Never wait to discipline your child. While you might want to wait until you are in private or to discipline when you are with your partner, your child won’t remember why they are getting in trouble. Talk about issues right away and implement consequences immediately.

10.  Set Your Environment for Success

Especially in the younger years, it’s important to set up your environment to help your children succeed in meeting your expectations. Avoid issues that could be prevented. Make your house kid-friendly. Don’t make plans to go out to dinner when there will be a long wait or when your child needs a nap.

11.  Redirect Your Child and Distract Them from Repeating Bad Behaviors

It might seem like you are redirecting your children all day, but it’s a significant part of parenting. If children get a rise out of you, they might continue to go back to what they were doing. At a young age, this becomes like a game. If your child does this, redirect them to a new activity and distract them from what they were doing. For example, if they keep pulling things out of the pantry, don’t just shut the door and expect them to stop. Move them into another room and give them a new activity to shift their focus.

12.  Focus on the Good

Praising your child for good behavior is just as important as disciplining them for bad. When you praise your child when they behave, they’ll want to do it more often. Children love positive affirmation. The more you praise their positive behaviors, the less likely they will be to behave badly. Positive reinforcement is a breeding ground for success when it comes to teaching children how to behave.

13.  Don’t Treat Children As Adults

Lecturing young children is not an effective way to discipline. Not only do children not want to hear long lectures, but they also will have a difficult time understanding. Stick to the basics and stay calm. Keep things simple and remember that children learn best from simple explanations and calm direction.

14.  Read Between the Lines

In some cases, your child’s bad behaviors may be an effort to express their feelings or bid for your attention. Children tend to act out when their parents’ attention is focused elsewhere. Make sure your children are occupied and happy when you are doing other things. If they do start to act out, assess your situation. Could there be a reason they are trying to get a rise out of you? If so, proceed with compassion and reassure your child that you understand their emotions.

15.  Focus on the Behavior, Not the Child

Remember that what is bad is the behavior not the child. Telling your child they are bad will give them a poor feeling of themselves and may cause them to continue to act out. You want to send the message that you love your child, but don’t love the way they are acting.

16.  Take Advantage of Time-Out

Even at a young age, time-out can be an effective discipline method. Remove your child from what they are doing and set them in a space by themselves. This gives them time to think about their behavior and understand the seriousness of how you feel. It also helps to maintain consistency and help you stick to your guns. Put children in time-out for one minute for every year of age. Removing them from play and taking your attention away is an effective way to send a message. While taking advantage of time-out is a great way to enforce the rules, don’t overuse it. Reserve time-outs for behaviors that are particularly inappropriate.

17.  Don’t Negotiate

You aren’t leading a great debate. Avoid saying things like, “if you do this, I’ll do that.” It’s important to set clear expectations and only offer your approval. Promising your children prizes or negotiating for good behavior will lead your child to expect this in everything they do.

18.  Don’t Hit

Although it may be tempting to spank your child from time to time, this can lead to problems. Hitting is not an effective way to get your message across. It just shows them it’s ok to use force and could lead to them hitting others. If you start to lose your patience, take a step back. It’ll give you a chance to assess the situation and come up with a plan that’s more effective.

19.  Change Your Strategy As Children Grow

What works in the younger years might not work as your children get older. They’ll also get comfortable in your disciplining methods and have a good grasp on how far they can push the buttons. Change your strategies as time goes on to get better results.

20.  Discipline with Love

The best way to end any discussion that involves discipline is in a positive way. Show your child that you are ready to move on once they have fulfilled the consequences. Don’t teach them to dwell on the problem. Reinforce the fact that you are setting rules and limits out of love rather than disappointment. Remind your child that you love them no matter what, even when they have bad behavior.

Parenting can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to setting rules and sticking to a discipline plan. With a little persistence and a strong set of goals, implementing an effective strategy is easier than you think. Using these helpful tips can help make the process even more effective, helping you raise your children exactly as you had hoped.

You’re not alone in your discipline struggles. Get connected with other parents just like you by signing up with the babienet platform to share ideas, advice, and questions.

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