how to discipline a child

Learning how to discipline a child properly can be very helpful when bringing up your own son or daughter.

It's not easy for parents to strike the balance between expressing their love for their children and, at the same time, ensuring their good behaviour. As they grow up, kids experiment with actions and their consequences, which can make them push us over the edge to get away with what they want. Suddenly, you may find yourself arm-wrestling with your child about superfluous stuff and not knowing how to react.

Have you been there before? Are you worried that your kid is going to challenge you anytime soon? Well, here you have some tips and tricks on disciplining children according to ages, from babies to pre-teens. Check them out!

How to discipline a child: Setting the 'No' rule (ages 0 to 2)

Babies and toddlers aren't easy to discipline. Sometimes, we forget that when they break something or make a mess with the food or the water in the bath, they aren't doing it for the sake of it. It's just another developmental milestone that they have to reach, no matter how upsetting such actions can be. We can start by introducing the word 'no' to prevent them from doing something, like playing with a dangerous object. Although it may be too early for them to make this association, it's also true that the sooner mums start laying the groundwork, the faster they'll learn. 

In addition, you should start using timeouts as a way to discipline your child. Designate a space of the house to send your toddler for about two minutes every time he behaves in an inappropriate way. Finally, keep in mind that you'll be a role model for him, so your actions in front of him matter a lot.

How to discipline a child: From punishment to praise (ages 3 to 5) 

Past the 'feared twos', your child will become a lot more talkative and show so many emotions, making clear when he's happy, sad or bored. His actions and demands may go beyond what's expected and you are comfortable with, leading to conflict. The point here is to keep setting new rules, but this time more specific and letting him know in advance what's not ok. For instance, let's say again that he decides to play with his food as a way to draw attention to himself, even though you have previously warned him about the consequences. In such a case, you should punish your kid by making him clean the mess, even If you have to assist him to do it right. Timeouts are still viable for kids these ages, in case you are used to 'using' them at this point.

If, on the contrary, your child behaves properly, don't pass up any opportunity to praise him, which will reinforce his actions. Actually, rewarding your son or daughter is as important as punishing him or her, so do it!

How to discipline a child: Consistency, the essence (ages 6 to 8) 

If you wonder how to discipline a child past his five years of life, you need to keep in mind that he'll now start to understand the feelings of other people, yet he'll still be most focused on himself. If you weren't consistent before, be sure to be from this point on, as it'll be crucial to discipline your kid. Stick to your rules and threats, because they'll validate your authority over your child. If you don't, you'll lose credibility and maybe he’ll test you in order to find where your limits are. 

Another thing to consider is that punishing children for long periods sustained over time, like weeks or even an entire month, may lead to kids ending up lacking motivation to change their behaviour, as they may feel that there's nothing to do and that they've already lost everything.

How to discipline a child: Failure, a valuable lesson (ages 9 to 12) 

By now, child discipline enters a new stage, because your kid will probably become more independent and will have more responsibilities, especially from school. Doing his homework and studying for his first tests will put him on the spot and give you additional information about his level of discipline. His teachers can stand out as other moral figures that he'll have to face if he doesn't behave well or doesn't fulfil his obligations. For example, there will be a day in which he'll procrastinate to do his homework up to a point where he may need your help. Unless it's an isolated case, don't help him.

Let your child 'fail' and deal with the consequences, so that he learns the lesson.

How to discipline a child: Free spirit? Wait! (ages 13 and up)

When your child finally becomes a pre-teen or a teen, you'll have to change your approach on how to discipline a child and be less 'controlling'. But how to discipline your child, then? You'll still need to set boundaries to different aspects, like coming home before the curfew, knowing who he's going out with and making sure he does well in school. It's just about giving him some control over certain things, like the clothes he's going to wear and the decoration of his room, among others, but at the same time reminding him who's in charge.

When rules get broken, you could take away some of your child's privileges, like his newest videogame.

No matter how old your kid is, you need to avoid hitting him. Besides harming him, this is going to teach him that it's ok to react with a physical aggression when you are angry. Young kids who, for instance, get spanked a lot, may end up fearing their own parents, which is the last thing we want.

Hopefully, now you have a better idea about how to discipline a child. Nobody says it will be easy, because it's actually one of the hardest aspects of parenting. Anyway, understanding your child's motivations and getting to know him deeply should make the whole process a bit easier.


Need help? Ask other mummies in CaptainMums' forum!


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