Your child’s characteristics are one factor that determines how he will respond to various discipline strategies. These characteristics include personality, temperament, physical abilities, talents, skills, strengths and weaknesses. For example, parenting a defiant child who is easily frustrated requires different discipline strategies when compared to a calm child who is eager to please. Also, a child who is clumsy and is teased by peers at school will benefit from different interventions when compared to an athletic child who is popular with peers.
Consider the fit between your characteristics and your child’s characteristics. Take note of the similarities and differences between your personalities, temperament, and preferences. This can point to areas where you may have less tolerance for average behaviors. For example, a parent who has low energy and prefers a quiet household may struggle to parent a loud, hyperactive child. Or, parents with low frustration tolerance may struggle to help a child with a learning disability complete his homework. Examining these factors can increase your awareness of steps that will be more effective in accommodating and disciplining your child.
Life changes and stress influence a child’s behaviors. Moving to a new home, attending a new school, or adjusting to a new baby in the family are examples of factors that influence behaviors. Take note of any recent changes and how this affects your child. For example, a child who is struggling to adjust to a new baby in the home, may be feeling left out and may not respond well to a time out that separates him from the family and leave him feeling even more left out. He may require some different disciplinary strategies as he adjusts to the situation.
The consequence a child receives for positive behavior determines the likelihood that these behaviors will occur again. Examine how you respond when your child follows the rules, listens, and behaves respectfully. Does your child receive praise? Are there any rewards for following the rules? Does your child gain any privileges for making good choices?
Sometimes good behaviors go unnoticed. It is important that your child receives positive reinforcement for good behaviors. For example, if a child is playing quietly, a parent may be tempted to avoid praising the child so as to not interrupt the quiet play. However, offering positive reinforcement can encourage it to continue. Offer praise, attention, and rewards that will motivate your child to follow the rules. If you find that your child is not getting enough positive reinforcement for good behaviors, adjust your discipline strategy to increase your child’s motivation to behave.
Determine if you may be inadvertently encouraging your child’s negative behaviors. Sometimes, children receive reinforcement for negative behaviors, which encourages them to continue misbehaving. For example, a child who receives a lot of attention for whining learns that whining is an effective way to get attention. Negative attention can be very reinforcing. If you spend a lot of time yelling, arguing, or pleading with your child, these responses may actually be encouraging your child to misbehave. Negative behaviors need a negative consequence in order to discourage them from continuing. Sometimes ignoring mild misbehavior is the most effective consequence
Negative consequences also need to be consistent. If you are inconsistent with giving time out or taking away a privilege, your child will continue to misbehave in hopes he won’t get a consequence this time. Providing consistent consequences will teach your child that each negative behavior results in a negative consequence. Evaluating the consequences your child receives can help determine which discipline strategies seem to be working and which strategies need to be changed.