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How to Discipline Children

Getting kids to behave isn't always easy. The key is to start looking at discipline as teaching, not punishment.


  • Step 1: Establish consequences Establish rules and consequences for breaking them, then enforce the consequence as close to the bad behavior as possible. You want the child to connect their misbehaving with its repercussions. And be consistent: If you punish children for something one day and let it slide the next, they'll keep testing how much they can get away with.
  • TIP: Never negotiate with a child; it gives them the power.
  • Step 2: Try not to spank them Resist the urge to spank them; studies show that children who are spanked regularly are more likely to become physically abusive themselves, as well as take part in risky or violent sexual behavior as teens and young adults.
  • Step 3: Use your indoor voice Keep your voice calm and level when correcting your child's behavior or explaining why they're being punished. Save the screaming for serious situations, like when they're about to do something dangerous.
  • TIP: If they're not doing anything destructive or hazardous, try ignoring them. Children often act up simply to get attention.
  • Step 4: Lead by example Lead by example. Don't punish your children for something you do or your partner does.
  • Step 5: Present a united front Always back up your partner's disciplinary decisions, and make sure they back yours. It's easier to keep kids in line if parents present a united front.
  • Step 6: Reinforce good behavior Reinforce good behavior. Parenting experts say it's more effective to compliment or reward a child after they've been good than to bribe them to behave.
  • FACT: Forty-five percent of American and Canadian parents interviewed say they use time-outs to discipline their children.

You Will Need

  • Rules
  • Consequences for breaking them
  • Self-control
  • Leading by example
  • United front
  • Positive reinforcement

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