Discipline. So many people define it differently. Some parents choose to ground their children or take away toys, while others choose to sit down and have stern conversations with their children or load them up with more chores as punishment. Ultimately, how do you discipline your kids in a way in which they receive your message?
Of course, there’s no one right way to parent. And we’re not here to tell you how to do it. But we are here to share some science-backed methods of discipline that generally seem to work.
1. Ground your child.
You don’t necessarily have to ground your child in the traditional way — keeping them from leaving the house for days on end. That feels like jail and, sometimes, can lead to making them frustrated and angry, ultimately more likely to act out again. It also suggests that, when they do something wrong, life stops; and that’s just simply not true.
What you can do, however, is keep them from doing something they love after school — going to sports practice, seeing friends, etc. This suggests that, when they do something wrong, it can take a toll on the positive parts of their life — the extracurriculars that teach them good lessons and keep them out of trouble. And, when they learn to appreciate those positive parts more, perhaps they’ll behave better.
2. Take away your child’s toys.
Taking away your child’s toys can teach them a lesson. If they’re not being responsible — leaving their toys all over the living room floor or refusing to share with their siblings, for example — you can teach them responsibility, maturity and empathy by taking their toys away until they understand the importance of respecting their things and sharing those things.
3. Have a stern (but calm!) conversation with your child.
If you want anyone to listen to you, you have to listen to them — conversations are always two-way streets, no matter who it is. The same goes for talking with your children, psychology suggests. Hearing them out, talking to them with respect and showing empathy can go a long way. Once you establish that rapport, you can have an honest conversation with your child about their actions or behavior, and what you’d like to see out of them going forward. Of course, having such a mature conversation with a child can be difficult, but it takes time to get there with them.
4. Give your child chores as consequences.
Plenty of kids today are only asked to do the bare minimum of chores (read: feeding the dog). So consider giving your child more substantial chores — cleaning, washing dishes, laundry — to do as a consequence for their behavior.
5. Don’t ignore your child.
If your child is acting out or misbehaving, it may be a cry for attention. If you avoid paying attention to your child during a fit, you might feel you’re doing yourself a service in that you’re not enabling the child’s behavior and are instead trying to show them that poor behavior won’t win attention. But research suggests temper tantrums may actually stem from sadness, not anger. And it may not be wise to ignore your kid’s cry for help. Rather, doing just the opposite — showing empathy — may prove to calm the situation down.
6. Talk to your child about what they did right.
Positive reinforcement works, according to psychology. Instead of always honing in on what your child did wrong, talk to them about what you feel they did right. Tap into their strengths, and they’ll likely be more inclined to keep showing you those strengths.
7. Put your child in time-out — or time-in.
Time-outs were apparently invented by psychologist B.F. Skinner as a form of light punishment. It’s been practiced for years and many argue that it’s effective — but “time-in” may be an even better bet.
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