Disciplining children is a tricky subject for parents, and indeed, for those without children as well! There are many different points of view, especially about spanking. Some think that corporal punishment is abuse and others see it as a vital method of discipline for any child being raised correctly. However, for parents who are opposed to spanking, or those who have mixed feelings, there are many effective ways to discipline your child without spanking.
- Stay calm. No matter which method of discipline you choose, your child needs you to stay calm while disciplining him. This will help your child understand that the consequences are not arising out of your anger, but because a consequence is appropriate for his actions. Staying calm will also help you avoid actions that you might later regret!
- Take a break. If you can't stay calm, temporarily remove yourself or your child from the situation. Sending your child to her room or leaving the room yourself will give you the chance to calm down and proceed appropriately. You can always come back and explain the consequences to your child after you have calmed yourself down.
- Don't reward unwanted behavior. Children love and crave their parents' attention, and will often do anything to get it. This includes "negative" attention, such as yelling, screaming or lecturing. Doing any of these things may end up reinforcing your child's behavior.
- Implement time-outs. A time-out is a calm way to deal with misbehaving children, which does not reinforce their behavior. Have a specific time-out chair or corner and send your child to this designated spot when he misbehaves. Do not argue about what will happen next, just keep repeating that you will talk to him after the time-out is over. A good rule of thumb is to limit the time-out to one minute for every year of the child's life. For very young children, three to five minutes can seem like an eternity!
- Make the punishment fit the crime. It is easier for a child to learn from mistakes if she can see the relationship between her offense and her punishment. If she made a mess, have her clean it up. If she hurts someone's feelings, she can write an apology letter. If she broke something, she can save her allowance or do extra chores to earn money to replace it.
- Explain the relationship between the offense and the consequences. This will help your child understand and not feel like he is being arbitrarily punished.
- Don't argue with your child. Do not let this explanation turn into an argument. Remember that you are the parent and you have authority over your child! If you would like, you may let your child ask a respectful question, but do not get into an argument with him!
- Present a united front. If there are two parents in the household, it is essential that you act as a team. Children will be able to sense division and will work to increase that. Do not disagree with your spouse about a punishment in front of the child. It is best to have the consequences worked out between the two of you before you explain them to your child.
Punishing your child is never a pleasant experience, but it is definitely possible to make it a learning experience for your child. Following these steps will make the consequences that you choose to implement much more effective!