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There are about as many ideas concerning the best way to discipline young children as there are parents. How you were raised has a great deal to do with how you feel about this subject. It is important to remember that when we discipline children, we want them to learn something about personal responsibility and logical consequences. In fact, the word discipline comes from the word disciple, which means to teach. Discipline doesn’t have to hurt to work. Following are some tips that will be helpful in setting limits and guiding children’s behavior.

Love. Children need lots of love and approval. They naturally desire to please; use this desire as a tool to effectively discipline.

Catch the children being good. Encourage acceptable behavior. Acknowledge children’s positive actions.

Be prepared. Talk over acceptable disciplinary actions with your spouse, baby sitters, grandparents, and other caregivers. Support one another.

Make sure the discipline fits. Discipline is most effective when it is directly related to the misbehavior. Children learn best when there are logical consequences to their actions. For example, if a child spills his or her milk, the logical consequence is for them to clean up the mess rather than being sent to their room.

Prevent trouble before it happens. “Childproofing” your home can prevent frustration for yourself and your child(ren).

Set clear limits. Make sure children understand exactly what is expected of them. Let them know what the rules are and be consistent in enforcing those rules.

Be firm. Stick to what you say and above all don’t say something unless you are prepared to carry through with it.

REMINDER when you are under stress, it is easy to lash out. Remember to:

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Close your eyes and imagine hearing what your child is about to hear.
  • Press your lips together and count to 10. Or 100 if need be!
  • Phone a good friend.
  • If someone can watch your child, get away for a period of time. Perhaps take a brisk walk to calm down.

Children model the actions and behaviors of the important adults in their lives. If you show your children (and tell them every day) that you love them, they will learn to love themselves and others. This can go a long way towards helping children learn to control their behavior.