Effective Discipline for Your Child

Discipline is often associated with negative connotations of control and punishment. However, effective discipline is anything but; when taught correctly and appropriately, discipline instills self-discipline. To discipline someone or something is to teach and let them learn; it is a tactic to nurture and encourage self-discipline, and can lead to a well-adjusted, stable, and valuable life.

Discipline for your child can range from harmful to beneficial; it is important that children learn discipline in a nurturing and safe environment. Any acts of fear, anger, and aggression will only result in the child feeling unstable, insecure, and less likely to trust parents or authority. Continuous and positive reinforcement are key components of effective discipline for your child, and the categories and levels of these change through various stages of development.

Effective discipline for your child involves consistency, a level of respect, strong parental bonding time, and an overall approach to growth and nurturing. Effective discipline does not involve harsh comments, criticism, physical or emotional abuse, anger, or aggression. When these negative approaches are used, a child will either regress into elementary behaviors, or begin to act out. They will also lose respect and experience increased anxiety and emotional stability as the years go by.

Consistency in effective discipline is especially important as it creates a balance for the child to model, turn to for stability, and outlines expectations. They can count on parents to lead them in the right direction when the time calls for it, and let them make the necessary decisions during other times. Of course this varies by age level, maturity, and overall life approaches of each child, and different situations will require different levels of decision-making. It is still critical, however, that the child knows that they will have a consistent model and consistent feedback from their parents or authority figure. As they grow, they can be sure they have moved on to the next level of responsibility and learning consequences on their own.

Respect is essential at every stage of development. When parents respect their children’s views, opinions, and basic beliefs at a fundamental level, they are allowing their child to express themselves in a comfortable and healthy way. Respect is returned to the parents when a child does not feel over controlled, humiliated, shamed, or embarrassed to speak up or express their feelings about something. Respect is also returned when the child feels safe at home, and can trust that the parents are on their side; this is a valuable area of the parental-child bond that will change and grow over time. It is essential that a child learns to respect authority, but not out of fear; instead, respect is established with fairness, freedom to express themselves appropriately, and no room or tolerance for physical or emotional violence.

Parent-child bonding time is essential each and every day. Even if it is a simple gesture with a hug, a pat on the back, expressing love, or doing an activity together, children need to feel like they are a part of the family. This does not need to be excessive or overdone; in fact, most children will miss out on any chances of growth if they are overly praised and literally ‘smothered.’ A healthy balance involves consistency, ease of communication, and a general sense of stability during interaction. Children who live out of fear of their parent’s own emotional states will grow up in an environment which constantly feels out of control. They may react by becoming over-controlling themselves, and be unable to form healthy relationships as a result.

Growth and nurturing take time; it is a process that every child and adolescent goes through and experiences differently every year. It requires flexibility by the parents to be accommodating and respectful of the child’s growth, mental well-being, and overall decision-making skills. When a child can grow and be nurtured in an environment that enables, not disables, them from making effective decisions with natural consequences, they will grow up to be stronger and self-reliant. They will disengage from needing parental support at all times, and can make sensible and adequate decisions on their own without anxiety, and without guilt.

Time outs, grounding techniques, and even spanking are debatable subjects for discipline strategies. Approaches vary by family, cultural, and social values, but any acts of physical violence are inappropriate. Not only will this encourage fear again, but also makes it ‘all right’ to teach by a very negative consequence. Time outs are most effective for very young children to learn how to manage anger and frustration; it lets them ‘breathe’ and think about their enxt steps or decision, even for a brief moment. Spanking does not create a healthy environment, and discourages children from even making simple decisions in the short and long-term. Grounding approaches can work for adolescent and younger children when exercised appropriately, and when there is a realistic and healthy level of respect between parent and child.

Developing a sense of self-discipline takes years to nurture, and will require time, energy, and a strong sense of confidence by the parents or guardians involved. Self-discipline is taught; it can be modeled, reinforced, introduced, and encouraged, but it cannot be simply given. It is a skill that is practiced and developed. A lack of self-discipline does not happen overnight. It is a result of environmental, emotional, and social factors combined. However, a child can develop a strong and consistent level of self-discipline when they are able to be confident in their own decision-making processes when presented with problems, obstacles, and approaches to life. Encouraging freedom to speak one’s mind is essential in any family dynamic; without it, children grow up in a fearful, anxiety-ridden, and negative arena that gives them limited sense of self-esteem and overall confidence. Help your child or adolescent overcome their personal challenges and encourage confident growth by instilling effective self-discipline strategies. The value of this approach to life is priceless, and will help them develop a stable, positive, and self-reinforcing lifestyle for themselves over the long-term.

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