Effective discipline : Counseling Corner
Dawn WomackMSW, LCSW, BACS
Child and Adolescent Counseling, LLC
Serving East & West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston & St. James Parishes
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Effective discipline

by Dawn Womack on 01/07/12

In my experience with my own kids as well as the parents of kids I work with, determining effective discipline is often difficult.  I have tried over the years to focus on "making the punishment fit the crime."  I often see parents punishing their kids by taking away their favorite things or even just taking away everything when their child misbehaves or makes a mistake.  I have to ask this...is it working for you?  If it is, then keep on doing what you're doing.  But if it isn't, stop and think about the punishment vs. what the child did wrong in the first place.  How will you teach him the lesson he needs to learn about his behavior so that he will remember the next time he is faced with this decision?

Kids sometimes have a hard time connecting two unassociated experiences.  If the punishment is directly related to the behavior, the child is more likely to remember the punishment the next time. For example, if your child got in trouble for using the phone after hours - take away her phone privileges for a specific period of time.  If your child hit another child, have him apologize and do not allow him to invite friends over to play for a period of time.   If your child's grades are dropping, try to determine the cause (too much time on the phone or computer, extracurricular activities taking too much time, etc.) and set some restrictions in those areas. 

However, I see parents punish a child who is abusing his phone privileges by taking away his nintendo game or not letting the child participate on a sports team, or even taking away all privileges.  When I see this type of discipline, I usually feel that the punishment was given out of anger as opposed to attempting to teach a lesson and to let the child earn back a privilege and try again.

Also, be sure to reward positive behavior.  It's important to let your child know when you notice good behavior.  Praise her and reward her when she does act appropriately.  You may be surprised to see her behavior improve from this alone.

Here is a website I found with these really good tips on effective discipline:


How You Say It Is Key

All parents get tired of yelling and repeating themselves trying to teach their children the same lessons and the appropriate way to behave. When it comes to disciplining your child effectively, how you communicate – what you say and how you say it -- are key. Discipline your child with words that are instructive, not destructive, and that are caring, not callous. If your child feels that you respect him or her, your child is more likely to comply.

How to effectively discipline and guide your child

  • Be calm. Your neutral tone shows your child you are standing your ground. Your calmness is contagious and will help your child calm down.
  • Be confident. If you want your child to have a two-cookie or one-hour TV limit, then establish that those are the rules in your home by enforcing them consistencly and with confidence.
  • Focus on your child. Say his or her name when you give a directive and look directly at the child.
  • Praise good behavior. Use specific praise that reiterates the good thing your child did and what it meant. “Thank you for sitting quietly and reading while I dressed your sister. It made us all happy and able to get things done. You are becoming a good reader.”
  • Gentle reminders. Time these appropriately. As your child leaves the bathroom, remind him or her to hang the towel up.
  • Present choices. Instead of always telling your child not to do something, give your child choices such as, "do you want to put your socks on first or your shirt?" Just make sure you only give choices that if your child chooses, you will be comfortable with.
  • Don't ask, tell.Asking "Are you ready for bed?" leaves the decision up to your child and the likely answer will be "no!" Try "Time for bed!" instead.
  • When…then . Tell your child when he completes an act of good behavior (puts away a toy, finishes homework, brushes teeth), then something desirable for your child will happen (you can have a cookie, watch TV, call your friend on the phone.)
  • Tell your child you will count to ten and explain what needs to happen during the countdown. Kids actually like the 'beat-the-clock' challenge and the countdown also allows you to keep your cool.
  • Invite input. Work out a situation together by asking your child how he or she would solve the problem. Then listen and work together to solve the issue at hand.
  • Say please and thank you . This helps your child use these important terms in his or her own language, but also provides an air of civility and kindness
  • Focus your message and be specific. Direct your child specifically, saying, “Dinner's almost ready. Please turn off the TV, wash your hands, and come to the table.”
  • Brief is best. One or two sentences will work better than a lecture in most cases. “Put your coat on or you'll be late for school.”
  • Use “I” phrases, instead of “you” phrases. Shift your criticism from the child to the child's behavior. Rather than, "You really make me sad when you do not put away your toys" try "I really like it when you put away your toys when you are finished playing."
  • Don't give too many orders at once. As your child completes a task, then direct him or her to the next one to avoid overwhelming your child.


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