Having a wide variety of discipline tools to deal with behavior problems will help you feel better prepared to deal with misbehavior. Just like with any toolbox, it’s likely you use some tools more than others. It’s likely that kids will respond better to some tools than others.
There may also be some tools that you forget about or aren’t as comfortable using. Most parents don’t ever sit down to make a list of discipline strategies but it can be helpful because it can remind you of your other options when the tools you are trying aren’t working.
Why Parents Need a Discipline Toolbox
The discipline tool a parent chooses depends largely on their parenting style. However, there are lots of options in how to respond to misbehavior and parents should have a large selection of discipline strategies to choose from.
For example, if a child begins to misbehave at school, a parent has several choices. Should he receive a consequence each day his teacher sends a note home? Should a reward system be put into place to motivate him to behave? Should the parent leave it up to the teacher to discipline him at school?
Another example is what to do with a child who doesn’t eat his dinner. Does he have to sit at the table until he finishes? Does he simply not earn the privilege of eating desert? Should his parents try to force him to clean his plate? Or does he get to eat desert anyway? A parent’s approach will depend largely on their household rules, their attitude about food, and their style of discipline.
When Behavior Problems Arise
When specific behavior problems arise it can be helpful to create a behavior management plan. For example, what tools or combination of tools is most likely to work? What other caregivers need to be aware of the plan?
Also, consider strategies that can help your child prevent behavioral issues. For example, does your child need to learn some new skills such as problem-solving skills? Or does he need to learn how to verbalize his feelings? Address any skill deficits in order to teach your child how to do things differently.
When possible, plan ahead to prevent any behavior problems before they arise. For example, if you notice your child exhibits temper tantrums most often in the afternoon, try to plan your outings in the morning if possible.
Specific Discipline Tools
There are many discipline tools that parents can use to address behaviors. This list includes the most common and some of the most effective discipline strategies:
- Positive Attention- Spending individual time with your child each day will improve your relationship and can prevent many behavioral issues.
- Praise- Catching your child being good can be an excellent way to promote positive behavior.
- Rewards- Reward kids for good behaviors with a sticker chart, reward system, or token economy system.
- Pre-Teaching- Pre-teaching is an important step in ensuring that kids know the rules and expectations before an event or community outing.
- Ignoring- Actively ignoring attention-seeking behaviors can be very effective in extinguishing them.
- Time Out- Time out teaches kids how to calm themselves down and removes them from the scene of the crime.
- Loss of Privilege- Taking away a privilege can be very effective and can be used as a back-up when kids refuse to go to time out.
- Logical Consequences-Logical consequences are those that make sense and where the "punishment fits the crime."
- Natural Consequences- There are times it just makes sense to allow kids to experience the natural consequence of their behaviors.
What to Do When a Tool Isn’t Working
When the discipline tool you’ve tried isn’t working examine your technique. Are there things you could do differently that may make the tool more effective? For example, are you consistent with applying the tool? Are you clear about the rules and consequences? Have you given it enough time to work?
When one tool isn’t working, you can also switch to a different tool. For example, if ignoring your child’s potty mouth hasn’t curbed it, try rewarding him for using nice language or place him in time out for using inappropriate words.
There are times it may be important to seek professional help as well. If you are concerned about your child’s behaviors, talk to the pediatrician or consult with a mental health professional. It’s important to rule out any underlying causes of the behavior, such as ADHD and a professional can assist you in determining a course of treatment to address behavioral issues that can help when the other discipline tools aren’t effective.