Disciplining your child is always a challenge, here are a few practical hints…

Try to be consistent at all costs – don’t have too many rules and keep the ones you decide upon (no matter how tired or frazzled you are!) But consistency should not be confused with rigidity and you may have to change strategies from time to time for the best effect. And remember, sometimes you need to lose certain battles to win the war!

Both parents should decide upon a joint discipline strategy – and this may need negotiation! This is particularly important if parents have different ideas about what is appropriate discipline; you may need to compromise and then both take responsibility for disciplining your child. (It is unfair to have one parent as the “baddie”!) And settle any disagreements in private or your children will play you off against each other as well as becoming confused and insecure.

Be decisive in disciplining – you do not have to defend yourself; small children lack judgement and experience – “Because I said so” is explanation enough. With older children, you can reason and allow for their input but make it clear that you have the final say. The more democratic you are in the early years, the more demanding and spoilt children become.

Do not lose your temper, walk away until you have calmed down. Or ask your spouse or a friend for help.

Don’t treat children of different ages the same way, the consequences should be suitable for the age. You would not gate a 3-year-old or send a 13-year-old to his room! Include rules for pre-schoolers that set safety limits, curb aggression and growing respect. Time-out, revoking privileges and ignoring annoying behaviour are tried and true discipline techniques for this age group. Don’t distract your child from another pursuit as this may mean that you are avoiding the real issue and accepting inappropriate behaviour by this response.
Don’t bribe your child to behave – you then get into a vicious cycle where children only behave when rewarded materially.

Trust your child – his story MAY be the true one. Listen to his point of view and approach the situation rationally, and than act. When children know you are on their side, they’ll feel – and behave – better.

Do not over-criticise or over-praise. Be sincere. Over-criticism may lead to a poor self-image and failure may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Over-praise may mean a child cannot pursue goals for self-satisfaction but becomes reliant on constant affirmation.

Be realistic about potential conflict situations and plan to avert these. Often warning children ahead of time about what is to happen and what will happen if they overstep clearly expressed limits prevents misbehaviour.

Apologise if you are wrong – this indicates mutual respect and does not mean that you are losing control.

And how about this – over-protection is the most subtle form of child abuse! Are YOU over-indulging your child?