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03-24-2023 By: Category: Blogs

Positive Discipline and Child Guidance

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Every adult who cares for children has a responsibility to guide, correct and socialize them toward appropriate behaviors. These actions often are called child guidance and discipline. Positive guidance and discipline are crucial for children because they promote self-control, teach responsibility and help them make thoughtful choices. The more effective adult caregivers are at encouraging appropriate child behavior, the less time and effort they will spend correcting misbehavior. Family specialists agree that using physical force, threats and put-downs can interfere with a child’s healthy development.

Family specialists also agree that there is no perfect formula that answers all questions about discipline. Children are as unique as the families they belong to. A discipline strategy that works with one child may not work with another.

Effective guidance and discipline focus on the development of the child. They also preserve the child’s self-esteem and dignity. Actions that insult or belittle are likely to cause children to view their parents and other caregivers negatively, which can inhibit learning and teach the child to be unkind to others. Acknowledging a child’s efforts and progress, no matter how slow or small, encourages healthy development.

Teaching children self-discipline is a demanding task. It requires patience, thoughtful attention, cooperation and a good understanding of the child. It also requires knowledge of one’s own strengths and struggles with disciplinary issues. Unfortunately, the only preparation for most parents is their own experience of being parented. Such past experiences may not always be helpful in raising children.

Proactive strategies

Child misbehavior is impossible to prevent completely. Children, usually curious and endlessly creative, are likely to do things parents and other caregivers will not expect. However, there are many positive steps adults can take to minimize misbehavior:

  • Set clear, consistent rules.
  • Make certain the environment is safe and worry-free.
  • Show interest in the child’s activities.
  • Provide appropriate and engaging playthings.
  • Encourage self-control by providing meaningful choices.
  • Focus on the desired behavior, rather than the one to be avoided.
  • Build children’s self-image as trustworthy, responsible and cooperative.
  • Expect the best from the child.
  • Give clear directions, one at a time.
  • Say “yes” whenever possible and appropriate.
  • Notice and pay attention to children when they do things right.
  • Take action before a situation gets out of control.
  • Be encouraging.
  • Set a good example.
  • Help children see how their actions affect others.

Possible reasons children misbehave

If parents understand why their children misbehave, they can be more successful at reducing behavioral problems. These reasons for misbehavior may help parents develop a better understanding of their children:

  • Testing whether caregivers will enforce rules
  • Expectations differ between school and home
  • Inadequate understanding of the rules, or being held to expectations beyond their developmental levels
  • Asserting themselves and their independence
  • Feeling ill, bored, hungry or sleepy
  • Lack of accurate information or prior experience
  • Previously rewarded with attention for their misbehavior
  • Copying the actions of their parents

Positive disciplinary techniques

True misbehavior occurs when a child chooses to behave inappropriately. Before you take action, consider these points about discipline:

  • Is the child really doing something wrong? Is there a real problem, or are you just tired and out of patience?
    • If there is no real problem, release your stress away from the child.
    • If there is a problem, go to the next question.
  • Think for a moment about whether your child is actually capable of doing what you expect.
    • If you are not being realistic, re-evaluate your expectations.
    • If your expectations are fair, go to the next question.
  • Did your child know at the time that they were doing something wrong?
    • If your child did not realize they were doing something wrong, help them understand what you expect them to do and how they can do that. Offer to help.
    • If your child knew what they were doing was wrong and intentionally disregarded a reasonable expectation, they misbehaved.

If the behavior was an accident, like wetting their pants while sleeping, it was not a misbehavior. If the behavior was not an accident, ask your child to tell you their reasons for doing what they did. If your child is old enough, ask how they might solve the problem or correct the situation. Children develop by thinking through a situation and developing possible solutions.