Discipline Decisions
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Discipline Decisions

The definition of discipline is to teach appropriate behavior, not to punish inappropriate behavior. Yet in the heat of the moment, discipline is not what usually takes place.

There is much advice on discipline in the media today. All of it is different, of course. But before deciding on how to go about disciplining your child, there are several considerations to make. Understanding your child's behavior is the first key to effective discipline. Here we help you understand and get you started with necessary considerations.

First let's look at your toddler's needs. Your toddler needs to be fed and given water. She needs rest and a clean diaper. If any of these needs are not met, she is many times more likely to engage in inappropriate behavior, and to have temper tantrums. But what many parents overlook is the fact that your child has another need which is as great as his physical needs. That need is your attention. Remember this: a child's hunger for your attention is intense and he *will* get it--one way or another. If he doesn't get your attention regularly, he'll get it by acting inappropriately.

There are ways for you to give your child attention even when you are busy. Smile at your child while looking into his eyes. Rub him on the back often. If you ackowledge your child in this way, she won't need to act up to get your attention.

Second, let's look at your expectations of your child. It is important that your expectations match your child's abilities. Otherwise, everyone loses. Young children don't have the physical or cognitive ability to control their emotions and behaviors regularly. Please realize that most of the time, your child is doing the best she can for her age and ability. Your role--especially while your child is so young-- is to teach him control and teach him how to exhibit appropriate behavior on a regular basis. This doesn't happen overnight, and your child needs your support to learn. Punishing your child when he does something wrong doesn't teach him nything about what to do that's right.

Third, listen to yourself. Many parents reserve the majority of their comments for negative behavior. Remember that your child's need for your attention is intense. If she knows she'll get more attention by acting up, that is what she will do. The more attention you place on a particular behavior, the more that behavior will increase. Praise your child often for appropriate behavior.

Also remember that after hearing the same thing over and over all day, anyone would respond by blocking it out. That's exactly what your toddler does. Instead of saying "no" and "don't" all day, replace it with what you do want your child to do. For example, your toddler is hitting the cat. Instead of saying "don't hit the kitty", replace it with "please pet the kitty gently". Always give a positive alternative to inappropriate behavior so your child will learn what to do instead.

Kids only have one childhood and it is very short. Spend this time enjoying your child and teaching him. Don't waste it with battles that make him feel bad and you feel guilty.

Email: tleehans@aol.com