It’s important to tailor the discipline techniques you use to your child’s developmental stage. A child’s age should be taken into consideration when finding an appropriate disciplinary strategy to ensure that your child will learn from discipline. Your disciplinary strategies will need to grow with your child as the techniques that work at age 4 aren’t going to be effective at age 14.
Learn About Your Child’s Development
Learn as much as you can about what to expect with your child’s development. This can help you develop reasonable expectations. For example, expecting a toddler to sit still through a two hour dinner at a restaurant isn’t a reasonable expectation.
When you learn what to expect from your child, you can establish rules that are age appropriate. For example, determining appropriate bedtimes and deciding what limits to set when your child is riding a bicycle depends on the child’s age and developmental needs. As your child grows, it is important to adjust these things accordingly.
Remember that kids develop at different rates. Not all 3 year olds are toilet trained and not all 16 year olds are responsible enough to drive. It’s important to examine your child’s specific development when you establish rules and determine disciplinary strategies.
Different Rules for Different Children
It’s healthy to have different rules for different children. For example, your 14-year-old doesn’t need to go to bed at 7PM just because your 6-year-old does. It is important to establish age appropriate rules for each child.
Anticipate protests from younger children who think this isn’t fair. It’s normal for them to want to be like their older siblings. It’s important to remind them that when they are older, they will gain more privileges as well.
Adjust Your Rules and Discipline Techniques as Your Child Grows
As your child grows and develops, discipline needs will change. Time outs are effective on younger children but sending an older teen to his room will likely backfire. Similarly, ignoring can be effective in discouraging a toddler from throwing a temper tantrum, but ignore a teenager and he may enjoy it! An older teenager requires different disciplinary strategies.
Take cues from your child about discipline techniques. If you take away his favorite toy when he hits his brother and he keeps hitting his brother, clearly that isn’t working. You may need to find another negative consequence that will be more effective.
Re-examine the rules you have for your child periodically as well. For example, if last summer you let him ride his bicycle in the driveway, this year he may be ready to ride it on the sidewalk. Just make sure you clearly explain any changes to the rules and ensure your child has a clear understanding of the rules before you start implementing them.
Strategies that Can Work at Any Age
There are some techniques that can work for children at any age. For example, positive reinforcement can motivate young children as well as older teenagers. It just requires a little different technique. Young children respond well to sticker charts while teenagers may do best with a token economy system. It’s important to give children extra incentives when they are doing well.
Praise is another discipline technique that works at any age. Praising young children can be very effective in encouraging them to try new things and repeat positive behaviors. Praising teenagers is effective as well and helps them recognize the importance of their positive behaviors. Providing positive attention shows children of all ages that you care and want to be involved in their activities.