Set boundaries for your child and stick to them no matter what he/she does. The stronger you are in your convictions to establish and maintain discipline with a child, the more he will love and respect you and the easier your life will be because he will adapt and change into a very well-behaved, disciplined and patient person. Be strong and set boundaries of behavior from your child(ren). Tell him/her what you expect and whenever the child behaves out of line of the established rules, punish him/her and stick to your punishments NO MATTER WHAT he says or does. I absolutely postively GUARANTEE YOU that he will step in line and stay in line if you follow that rule of discipline.

Affection is one of the major keys to child-rearing which doesn't get as much attention as other forms of discipline... Be affectionate with your child(ren) frequently too.

READ THE BOOK CALLED - THE ONE-MINUTE MANAGER BY KENNETH BLANCHARD. The book describes the process of teaching discipline better than any I have ever read. It is NOT all about punishing a child for doing something wrong. Create a model of behavior and involve your child in the process from start to finish so that he understands the entire process and is not victimized. Catch the child doing something right. Model good behavior that the child can mirror. And only punish the child in appropriate ways, for a very short time-frame that is age appropriate... Here is a model of the process...


Boundary Establishment -
Son, you are NOT allowed in this room. If you go into this room, you will be grounded. (short and well-defined, in a nice tone, said with love and respect)

Boundary Test -
Son goes into room

Consequences -
Son has to sit for (number of minutes matches current age) # minutes in corner with face in corner ((this is called a Time-out))
No distractions, no TV, no music, nothing but bare wall to look at
No talking, nothing but time to think about what he did wrong

Discussion -
I told you not to go into the room or you would be punished. You went into the room. Do NOT go into the room again.

Any possible repeat tests are followed through with punishment consequences.
Boundary Established.

This is the same method for every single problem you ever have with him. The only thing that changes is the punishment. At his current age, time outs are the appropriate punishment. If he does anything severe that is a big deal that needs a more severe punishment, then you have to establish your personal belief system to set your punishments BEFORE you ever need to use them, and he should know what his punishments are.

Example: do you believe in spankings?
if so, do you believe a spanking is a bare bottom spanking or a clothes still on spanking. You should NEVER hit a child on any other part of the body, NEVER hit a child with anything other than your hand, and NEVER hit a child more than 3 times.

The psychology behind a spanking is that the actual pain is not the important aspect of the punishment. Do NOT hit a child to hurt the child. Spanking is basically assault on a minor. Think about that!

For a child, losing your respect and seeing you upset is very traumatic for him. For MOST children, that reaction of yours is enough to teach the child not to do whatever just happened ever again. WITHOUT ever having to follow it up with a spanking or any other form of discipline. Utilizing the spanking is only a means to an end. The actual process is the lesson for the child.

WARNING: DO NOT SPANK A CHILD MORE THAN ONCE IN A 30-60 DAY TIMEFRAME BECAUSE 1) IT WILL NO LONGER BE EFFECTIVE, 2) YOU WILL LOSE THE CHILD'S RESPECT FOR THE PROCESS, FOR YOU, 3) AND YOU WILL LOSE YOUR ABILITY TO DISCIPLINE EFFECTIVELY. Just like with anything else, doing it all the time builds up a tolerance to it, for both the parent and the child. Not to mention that you could get arrested for child abuse. Additionally, your child may grow up to like to abuse others or be attracted to abuse of himself.

Examples of spanking punishment behaviors (AFTER TIME-OUTS HAVE NOT WORKED):
If a child hits the parent or hits anyone else and time out has not been effective to stop the behavior.
After 3-4 times of time-outs having not worked for one repeat bad behavior.
The child puts himself or others at risk of danger or actual harm.

If you do not believe in spankings at all, then you need to use another type of stress to jolt the child's behavior into proper discipline.

Disclaimer: I personally do not offer my own advice on whether spanking your own children is a good or bad thing to do. I was an abused child, yet I believe appropriate spankings that are a small part of a big discipline plan ((spankings that are NOT done in anger, and are VERY controlled)) can be an effective method of disciplining a child who frequently defies behaving (for other reasons than to get attention).

People are emotional, so the problem with spankings is that parents are people too. If we teach our children in the ways that are most effective for each child as an individual, then we are accomplishing our ultimate goal as a parent, regardless of how we get there. As long as the child is not abused physically, emotionally or in other ways, spanking as a method of punishment can be effective. However, IF you are an emotional person, a person who has a tendency to lose control or lose your cool, if you have issues or baggage than CAN or COULD ever create a traumatic experience for the child, then I suggest you refrain from ever hitting your child in any manner.

Here are some articles on discipline to help educate you on various aspects of this topic...

Discipline: General Principles

General principles of discipline:
While every child is different, most children need to be given consistent, clear rules and expectations about behavior. The following are some general principles about discipline:

* Discipline needs to begin as soon as the child is mobile - pulling up and crawling.
* Young infants rely on their parents to provide a safe environment.
* Discipline should be age-focused and should teach age-appropriate behaviors.
* Try to recognize and praise your child when he/she is being good.
* Be a good role model for your child.
* After the discipline occurs, hug your child. Make sure the child knows it is the behavior you are not happy with, not the child.
* Physical punishment is not needed or appropriate.
* Rewards for good behavior should be immediate.

Decrease unwanted behavior:
It is important to remember not to reward a child or give positive reinforcement for a bad behavior. For example, if a child is having a temper tantrum, giving him/her a cookie to be quiet is rewarding the child for the bad behavior. In order to help decrease the chance of bad behavior, consider the following:

* Do not reinforce the behavior; simply ignore the child.
* The behavior may have to result in an unpleasant consequence, such as punishment.
* Active punishment has two forms, including the following:
o denying the child privileges or desired activities, such as decreasing TV time or no dessert
o undesirable or uncomfortable activities can be required of the child, such as doing chores or having "time-out"
* The behavior can result in natural consequences. For example, a child who will not eat may go to bed hungry.
* It is generally accepted that spanking and other forms of physical punishment are not helpful. These types of discipline teach the child aggressive behaviors and poor conflict management.

Methods of discipline:
Discipline methods often depend on the age of the child, and how much the child understands his/her behavior. The following are some suggestions for discipline techniques for each age group:

* infants and toddlers:
o Safety is the main concern.
o Infants will respond to a loud, firm voice saying "no."
o Provide a safe environment that decreases the chances of things being broken by the child.
o After saying "no," direct your child to an acceptable behavior, such as a toy.
o Do not reward bad behavior. Ignore temper tantrums, but confront other problems, such as biting or hitting.
o Praise and reward good behavior.
* preschoolers:
o Preschoolers need clear and consistent rules.
* This age group needs time to prepare for the next activity. Give your child a warning before it is time to stop playing.
o Preschoolers need lots of explanation as to why things are being done.
o Use time-out for bad behavior.
o Use praise for good behavior.
* school-aged children:

School-aged children need the above rules and guidelines plus the following:

o Give your child chances to explain their side and opinion and opportunities to express their feelings and concerns.
o Give your child choices.
o Give your child chances to help solve problems together regarding their behavior.

* adolescents:
o This age group needs patient and understanding parents as they test all limits.
o Adolescents need to be told the long-term outcomes of bad behaviors.
o Adolescents need to be involved with limit-setting, based on their maturity.

Why Children Misbehave
When a child misbehaves frequently it can be frustrating, especially when parents don't know why it's happening or what to do about it. The good news is that there are almost always reasons for a child's misbehavior, which means that most of the time parents can do something about it.

Most misbehavior is guided by an incentive or goal -- in other words, the child wants to attain or avoid something. And while the behavior is inappropriate, the incentive is usually appropriate. For example, your child may be seeking your attention, and due to your busy schedule, the only way she knows how to achieve this is through negative behaviors. To her, your angry reaction is better than no reaction.

If you think this may be the cause in your child's situation, it's important to catch her while she is being good, and provide positive attention and praise during these moments. Reinforcing her good behavior will make her more likely to behave well. Conversely, don't reinforce her poor behaviors by paying them too much attention, unless she is creating an unsafe situation.

Other situations could include:

* Your child may have tantrums in the morning as you are about to bring him to daycare. Once you establish the trend in his behavior (that it's occurring prior to leaving the house and going to daycare), you can consider what your child may be avoiding. For example, is he afraid of some situation at daycare or school? Speak with his teachers or daycare workers to see if they notice any perplexing behaviors that could be clues as to why your child may not want to go there (for example, poor peer relations, learning or communication difficulties, mental health or health issues, and so on).
* Your child's difficult behavior may be due to her desire to assert herself and promote her independence. For example, she may be argumentative when asked to do something. This can be a positive attribute, as it means your child feels she is important and that her views should be valued. She also may be demonstrating that she has a secure relationship with her caregiver, and is not afraid to speak up, which can also be a good thing. Obviously, overstepping social boundaries with extreme rudeness or obstinacy should be curtailed.

These broad examples may help parents begin to look at their child's behavior from a different perspective, and thus begin to devise more successful interventions.
Strategies for handling your child's misbehavior:

* Establish clear and concise rules. They can be reiterated in a picture chart that can be hung in your home in a highly traveled location, such as on the refrigerator or on the child's bedroom door. This chart should explain rules, as well as consequences for breaking those rules, and should be followed consistently.

* Create a Star Chart to illustrate good behavior that your child can be proud of. Draw or write the desired behavior or action (such as cleaning his room) followed by various columns. At the end of each day/week, place a star in the columns next to the activities your child accomplished. Tally the stars and provide rewards for him.

* If you find yourself angry or frustrated with your child, "take five." Take a deep breath, count to 20, or give yourself five minutes away from your child to cool down before you respond.

* Never strike your child in anger. This teaches your child that aggression is okay, and he may then resort to aggression with peers, which will lead to more frustration.

* Don't yell. Words can hurt more than physical punishment, and can cause more long-term damage. Do not yell at or insult your child. If she breaks a rule, tell her what she did wrong, and why it makes you angry. Tell her you are angry at what she did, not at who she is.

* Give time outs. If your child engages in negative behavior you may use time outs. A time out should never exceed your child's age (for example, a 4-year-old's time out should not exceed four minutes). Be sure your child understands why he is in time out. Children age 10 and older generally benefit more from discussion or removal of privileges, than from time out.

If your child's negative behaviors don't appear to be based on any ulterior motive and/or if you are having a difficult time managing your child, it's important to consult your child's pediatrician and to consider having her evaluated by a specialist who can look into any other possible causes that may be beyond anyone's control.

Source: Molly Meyers, MA, program manager of the Advocating Success for Kids Program and Anna Chaves McDonald, PhD, a psychologist in the Developmental Medicine Center at Children's Hospital Boston.

Discipline Methods
for Parents and Grandparents
Prepared by Elaine Wilson, Parenting Specialist
Oklahoma State University
Discipline is one of the biggest problems every
parent faces. Learning to discipline your children
effectively is hard work according to research findings
at Oklahoma State University and other universities.
Positive discipline is much better than punishment.
It is the way parents help their children
learn self-control. These controls help the child
know what to do and when to do it even when
parents are not around to help them.
The purpose of discipline is to raise responsible,
confident children who grow up to think for themselves,
care about others and live satisfying and
useful lives. The type of discipline a family uses
strongly influences the child’s self-esteem.
Change the Setting. If children misbehave in
the grocery store, do not take them to the grocery
store. If church lasts an hour, and children cannot
sit still, take them to the church nursery. If your
child runs through the living room, arrange the
furniture to block the path. Read about child
development and talk with professionals like your
child’s teacher or health care provider to learn what
to expect of your child.
Redirect, Distract, or Divert Attention. When
your child is about to do something wrong, redirect
the child’s attention to something desirable. Redirect
a child who is sad about going to bed to comfort
a doll. A child who wants to play at Mother’s
computer needs redirection to her toys. A child who
wants to hit needs redirection to hit a pillow or a ball.
Be Firm. Being firm does not mean yelling or
controlling. It means deciding which rules are most
important. Think about your values. Carefully teach
your child correct behaviors. Show and teach them
what to do. Be firm about the things that really
matter. Be flexible about less important types of
misbehavior. Your tone of voice, words and actions
show that you mean what you say. Children usually
comply when their parents are firm. Research findings
indicate that children benefit from knowing
that their parents are in charge.

Ignore Misbehavior. Some children misbehave
just to get attention. Once you teach your child the
correct behavior, it may be best to ignore attention
getting behaviors like temper tantrums or foul language.
The same is true of behaviors like silliness or
exaggeration. These behaviors reflect the child’s
immaturity. Your best discipline tool is your attention.
Give children massive amounts of attention
when they behave well. Try not to require that your
child misbehave to get your attention.
Be Detached. Pretend this is not your child.
Imagine that you are correcting a niece, nephew or
neighbor. Most parents stay calm when they discipline
someone else’s children.
Stay Alert. Deal with the situation before it gets
out of hand. Correct the child before you become
frustrated and upset. Watch difficult situations
carefully. There is no substitute for supervision.
Time-Out is not punishment. It is a special time
to calm oneself. It gives everybody a chance to calm
down to gain self-control. When children fight or
seem to lose self-control, simply say, “You need a
time-out.” Send them to separate rooms, chairs,
anywhere to be alone for a while. There are many
ways to gain composure: walking, drawing, listening
to music, looking at a book. The type and length of
the time-out will vary for each person and each
situation. You might set the kitchen timer for a 5
minute time-out. Eventually children will learn to
pace themselves and schedule their own time-outs.
Reverse Time-Out is for parents. Take a timeout
yourself when you feel yourself getting out of
control or angry. Tell the children you are taking a
time-out to calm yourself. Your example will help
them learn self-control.
Consequences is the name of a discipline method
that says, “Experience is the best teacher.” It means
letting children have the dignity of dealing with
results of their behavior. It means not rescuing
them. It is not easy. There are many kinds of
consequences, natural and logical. A natural consequence
occurs naturally. “You did not eat your
dinner so you are hungry now. You can eat again at
snack time.” Logical consequences are rules and
ammends you and your child make together. “You
broke the window so you will have to pay for it.” Your
comment shows the child you care and understand
the child’s feelings “You broke the toy and wish it
still worked.” Do not buy a replacement toy. Social
consequences teach conflict management. “Jamie
does not want to play with you because you knocked
over her block tower.” Some consequences are
positive. “You helped me with the dishes. Now we
have time for a game.”

Spanking children - good or bad?

Spanking children - is it ever appropriate parenting? At Civitas we can help you understand what types of discipline are appropriate and how to do it. We can show you alternatives to spanking children by setting limits, teaching through positive reinforcement and when to use time-outs.

Civitas is helping educate parents, grandparents and professionals about the long range effects of various disciplinary methods including spanking children. Though there are many strategies for encouraging good behavior, some generally agreed upon "Dos" include being a good role model, being consistent and providing natural consequences for bad behavior. "Don'ts" include threatening, punishment for accidental mishaps and physical punishments such as spanking children. Remember, you're trying to teach, not create fear.
Alternative approaches to spanking children

With input from early development experts, we work to shape the vision of community by creating, producing and distributing educational tools that support caregivers. The latest research shows that spanking children can be detrimental to development. The physical nature tends to create negative developmental consequences. Young people who are regularly disciplined by hitting and slapping are more likely to deal with anger with physical aggression.

When thinking about discipline and punishment, remember to always take a child's age into account. For infants under six months any type of discipline is inappropriate. For babies six months to walking age, focus on safety and exploration. For toddlers age one to two, use discipline to teach values and set limits.
Advice from the experts

To ensure we operate on the highest level of potential, we rely on our advisory council as well as other nationally recognized leaders in early development. The council works alongside our board of directors in all areas related to credibility and quality of its projects and programs.

The Civitas Advisory Council includes nationally recognized leaders in the field of early development. The council works alongside Civitas's Board of Directors in all areas related to the credibility and quality of its projects and programs. Drawing on their extensive knowledge and experience, the advisory council ensures that all content communicated by the organization is firmly grounded in science and practice.

Civitas gathers cutting-edge research on early development and transforms this content into bilingual educational tools for caregivers. These tools are then broadly disseminated to parents,grandparents, other caregivers and professionals through its national distribution network composed of not-for-profit organizations, government agencies, academic institutions, foundations and corporations.

At the core of all Civitas projects is leading edge content related to early development. Working with more than 100 top experts, Civitas ensures that the content we communicate is firmly grounded in science and practice.

Civitas works to shape its vision of community by creating, producing and distributing educational tools that support all adults caring for youngsters. What allows Civitas to do this work on a national scale is its commitment to collaboration in each step of its process.

Young people benefit from a community of adults who share a core knowledge that promotes the care and well-being of every child.

Spanking Hurts!
Child development research suggests that spanking as a regular form of punishment can lead to a host of outcomes that are detrimental to a child's development. However, 61% of parents of young children incorrectly believe that it is appropriate to spank a child as a "regular form of punishment."

From the national benchmark survey What Grown-Ups Understand About Child Development.

Deborah Richardson
Child Development Assistant Specialist

Discipline is one of the biggest problems that every parent faces. You have probably wondered, “Did I do the right thing?” or “Why doesn’t Johnny obey me?”
We prepared this series of lessons for parents who want to do a better job of guiding their children and gain the desired result—good behavior. These lessons are for parents of young children, ages two to six. However, some of the methods given are also appropriate for older children.

Being effective with your discipline and guidance is a challenge. Being a good parent is hard work. The discipline methods in these lessons may or may not work for your family. However, until you try them, you will not know what works for your situation. If one suggestion is not effective, try another. For many years, parents have told us these methods work well. Reading these lessons will help you improve how you discipline your child. Your child is fortunate that you are learning some positive discipline techniques.
Effective discipline begins with a warm, caring relationship. Parents and children give and receive affection frequently. The child feels secure in the parent’s love.
Your style of parenting may be limited by what you remember your own parents doing, what your friends do, and what you see on television. There are many other ideas you can try, such as watching other parents, or attending a quality child care center to watch how the teachers interact with the children. Try the things you learn from these fact sheets. We think you will like how these positive methods work and how you feel when you use them.
What is Discipline?

Discipline is:
• Teaching children responsibility.
• Showing a child how to get along with family and friends.
• Developing a child’s self-control so that the child wants to do what is right, and not just to avoid punishment.
• Encouraging a child to be independent.
We want our children to behave properly even when we are not around. We want children to think for themselves and take

care of themselves. As parents, we want to raise responsible, confident, well-behaved children. Discipline helps children learn to care about others and to live satisfying and useful lives.
Isn’t discipline punishment?

Discipline and punishment are different. Positive discipline is teaching and showing children correct behavior while respecting and encouraging their developing skills. We want children to be responsible for their own behavior. Some think that discipline is teaching a child to mind or that discipline is what we apply when a child is naughty and behaves badly. Some think the purpose of discipline is to give a child feelings of shame and guilt.
Effective discipline is a way we help a child learn self-control, and know what to do and when to do it. Punishment

is using an unpleasant experience to try to change a child’s behavior. It may stop bad behavior for the moment, but does not teach children about the good behavior that is expected of them. Punishment builds anger and resentment.
What do you want your child to be like?

Think ahead a few years and check some of the attributes you would like your child to have.

___ Achieving ___ Empathetic ___ Loving
___ Reserved ___ Assertive ___ Energetic
___ Neat and orderly ___ Respectful ___ Athletic
___ Generous ___ Obedient ___ Self- confident
___ Competitive ___ Has initiative ___ Open-minded
___ Self-disciplined ___ Conforming ___ Healthy
___ Patient ___ Sense of ___ Considerate humor of others
___ Honest ___ Persevering ___ Strong-willed
___ Independent ___ Polite ___ Well-adjusted
___ Cooperative ___ Industrious ___ Positive self-
___ Well-rounded ___ Creative ___ Integrity
___ Curious ___ Interdependent ___ Popular
___ Dependent ___ Kind ___ Productive

Give this some careful thought. What can you do as a parent now to help your child accomplish these goals? Below, we have listed several things that research findings associate with success:
1. Self-esteem and self-confidence.
2. Independent thinking and problem solving skills.
3. Self-control.
4. Getting along well with others, being caring and empathetic.
5. A sense of responsibility.
It is important that you keep in mind the goals you have for your child. Doing this will aid you in remembering the important things you want to teach your child, and help you to decide the type of discipline you want to use. You can influence your child in the appropriate ways to achieve those goals.
Types of Discipline

Abuse is a method of discipline that uses excessive physical and verbal punishment. Abuse undermines a child’s physical and emotional health. It can be life threatening. Child abuse is illegal and may cause parents to lose custody of their children and face imprisonment. Professionals who abuse children may lose their license to work and may face imprisonment as well. People who abuse children may not know about positive discipline methods and are usually under stress. Often, they were abused as children. Their experiences taught them to be abusive.
Strict discipline uses many rules and punishments. The children do not have any say in the decision-making process. The rules and punishments are set by the parents. Children are not allowed to ask questions or make suggestions. Many of the rules are arbitrarily set by the adults. This sort of discipline can be militaristic and not reflect an understanding how children learn and develop at different ages. Authoritarian adults with a high need to be in control often use strict discipline methods.

Diagram 1. Types of Discipline
Abuse——Strict ——Positive——Permissive——Neglect

Positive discipline considers the child’s age and development. Children and parents work together to decide the rules necessary for the well-being of the whole family. Children become involved in the decision-making process. Deciding the consequences for not following the rules helps children understand cause and effect. When parents need to take control, they do so firmly, with dignity and respect for the child’s feelings and ideas. The rules change to suit the child’s age and ability. The rules reflect family beliefs, interests, and culture.
Permissive discipline puts children in control. No rules are set by the parent because the child makes all rules and decisions, thus, the household revolves around the child. Parents who choose this type of discipline may view children as free spirits, be too busy with other things, or not understand how children grow and develop.
Neglect is a serious lack of discipline or abuse combined with no provision for the child’s food, shelter, clothing, medical needs, and protection. Child neglect can result in loss of custody or license to care for children. Adults who neglect children in their care are often depressed, physically ill, or unable to care for themselves and their children. Research studies show that neglect is more harmful than abuse. Some children never recover from neglect. Your caring attention is very important to your child.
Each type of discipline can also vary as to rigidity, harshness, and consistency. Some adults are very strict and continuously correct and punish children. Some parents vary their strictness according to their goals for the child, the child’s needs, and the family’s values. For example, they may be strict about bedtime but permissive about how late the child stays awake reading in bed.
Most parents use the style of discipline that their parents used, with the idea of “I turned out “okay.” The problem is that our world is rapidly changing. Today’s children live with much more diversity, information, and independence. They must learn to make responsible decisions. They need to know why we have certain rules so they can apply the rules in other situations. Children treated with respect and dignity can stand up for what they know to be right. Extreme types of discipline do not work with children today. Abuse, neglect, strict, and permissive types of discipline do not produce the kind of people our world needs.
The use of positive discipline is described in this series. Positive discipline is based on research, common sense, and knowledge about how children grow and learn. Parents and children are usually much happier using positive discipline.
Know Your Child

Each child is unique. Discipline techniques work differently depending on the temperaments of the child and parent. Read the following temperaments and related characteristics. Which one best describes the traits of your child?

Effects of Discipline
• When parents use strict discipline, children become timid, withdrawn, dependent persons, or they may become rebellious and defy authority.
• When parents are permissive, children become spoiled, cranky, crying persons who expect to continually get their own way.
• When parents use positive discipline, children become responsible, cooperative, and are considerate of others. They develop a positive self-concept.

A difficult child
• shrieks rather than cries.
• is upset by new people or places.
• is irregular in eating and sleeping habits.
• has violent temper fits.
An easy-going child.
• Is generally cheerful.
• responds agreeably to new people, places,
• and foods.
• has regular eating and sleeping habits.
A timid child
• withdraws from new situations.
• adapts to changes slowly.
A bright child
• is easily bored and finds their own
• entertainment.
• questions and thinks of exceptions to rules.
• pays close attention to adult role models.
A creative child
• thinks of new and different rules.
• finds clever ways around rules and
• consequences.
• has serious problems with strict discipline.
Children are all unique individuals. Some are persistent; others give up easily. Some are active; others sit still. Some talk a lot; others are quiet. What works for one of your children may not work for another. Parents need to recognize and be aware of individual differences. Consider each child’s temperament when you select discipline techniques.
Discipline techniques need to keep pace with the child’s age and abilities. As parents, we need to ask, “Are my expectations reasonable for a child this age?” “Do I expect too much?”
Be aware that age and stage in development make a difference. Be familiar with what is normal for a child at a certain age. For example, we cannot expect a two-year-old child to sit still and be quiet. Young children need to be active. It is important to know the characteristic behavior for each age. Your child care provider and other early childhood professionals can help other adults and parents understand normal growth and development. We must remember that behavior we find bad or annoying may be normal for a child that age.
Young children have a difficult time telling the difference between fact and pretend. If a child says, “I saw a bear,” an adult may think the young child is lying or is afraid. Actually, the child is behaving normally. The best adult response is to agree that it is fun and safe to pretend. In a few years, the child will know the difference between reality and imagination.
Children are curious. They may take things apart to see how they work, not to annoy parents. Curiosity is a valuable tool for learning. Rather than punishing a child for taking things apart, provide something to satisfy curiosity.

Paperback: Nelson, J. (1987). Positive Discipline. New York: Ballantine Books.
Honig, A. & D. Wittmer. (1994). Encouraging Positive Social Development in Young Children. Young Children, 49 (5), 4-12.
Honig, A. & D. Wittmer. (1996). Helping Children Become More Prosocial: Ideas for Classrooms, Families, Schools, and Communities. Part 2, Young Children, 51, 62-70.
Marion, M. (1991). Guidance of Young Children. New York: Macmillan.
Slee, R. (1995). Towards An Educational Theory of Discipline. Changing Theories and Practices of Discipline. Washington, DC: The Falmer Press.
Wingo, B. (1996). The ABC’s of Behavior Management. Texas and Oklahoma Child Care: The Quarterly Journal For Caregivers Everywhere, 20, 8-9.

The infant
• cries to get what is needed.
• is dependent on adults.
• loves to play with food.
• grows rapidly.
• gets into everything.
• sleeps less each month.
• learns by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing,
and hearing.
The toddler
• is negative and says no many times.
• is possessive and considers everything
• “mine.”
• is noisy.
• is self-centered.
• has short memory.
• is curious and explores.
• can not make choices.
• is easily distracted, plays, dawdles.
• can not sit still.
The three-year-old
• tries to please.
• minds well and can follow brief instructions.
• accepts suggestions.
• can understand reasons.
• listens well especially when called by name.
• can make simple choices.
• speaks well enough to be understood.
• is not capable of sharing.
The four-year-old
• wants friends.
• asks many questions.
• tends to be bossy.
• brags and stretches the truth.
• tells on others.
• talks a lot.
• can learn to take turns if the wait is not long.
• values self.
• enjoys playing with made-up words.
• says words to shock others.
The five-year-old
• gets along well with friends and parents.
• is businesslike.
• likes to act like grown-ups.
• is dependable.
• likes praise.
• likes to feel important.
• tells on others.
• enjoys dressing up.
• can give name and address.
is serious and demanding.
The six-year-old
• thrives on approval.
• is possessive with belongings.
• has trouble compromising.
• has difficulty making choices.
• responds negatively at first and then
• cooperates.
• plays best with one other friend, not a large
• group.
• does not want to hurt people.
• wants to learn.
• needs to be reminded of instructions.
• is active.
• resists punishment.
The seven-year-old
• is sensitive to others’ feelings.
• does not listen well.
• is very competitive and does not know how
• to lose.
• dislikes individual praise.
• wants to be part of a group.
• lies because of immaturity.
• has an immature sense of ownership.
• loses interest suddenly.
• fights with words.
• cries when something does not work.
• does not take correction well.
• responds well to rewards.
• needs personal touch and conversation.
The eight-year-old
• can respond rapidly to instructions.
• prefers a hint or a cue instead of a direct
• order.
• asks for praise.
• dislikes being teased about shortcomings.
• has a lively sense of property and ownership.
• tells tales with some truth.
• can not lose gracefully.
• is tolerant of other cultures.
• learns through others’ mistakes.
• behavior improves after brief isolation from
• a group.
• likes hard tasks.
• interests are brief.
• likes to argue and to compete.
• needs extra time.
• can be controlled with just a glance.


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2 3

Effective Discipline

* is proactive;
* promotes positive behavior and self-control;
* encourages self-responsibility;
* responds to unacceptable behavior and a lack of self-control;
* protects and strengthens the child's self-esteem;
* strengthens the parent-child relationship; and
* advances development.

A Summary of Some Practical Discipline Techniques

No one technique of discipline can be relied upon for all situations. The wise parent develops a functional set of skills suited to different situations. Remember that the best discipline is prevention and there is "no one size fits all" when it comes to promoting positive behavior and self-responsibility and responding to unacceptable behaviors.

Role modeling: Children learn more about behavior by watching adults than in any other way.

Encouragement: Encouragement is a means to promote positive behavior and some argue that it is more effective than praise or reward. It implies reasonable expectations (one step at a time), and that we accept the child's mistakes, as well the successes.

Attention-ignore: Catch children being good! Children repeat behaviors that get attention; they give up behaviors that get no attention.

Charts and Rewards: If not overused, the handy chart posted on the refrigerator (or elsewhere) can help establish good behavior patterns.

Setting limits: Children need to know where the limits are and that these limits stay the same all the time. They feel secure when they know where the boundaries are. They test them frequently to find out.

Consequences: Consequences can be of two types: those that happen if you do nothing and those that you arrange. For example, if a child willfully or carelessly breaks a toy, the child no longer has that toy to play with. If the child hits another with a toy, you may take that toy away. Both are consequences of the child's actions.

Time out: Sometimes children need time to calm down and collect themselves. (Adults do too!) Used sparingly, with consistency and repetition, it must be viewed as teaching the child, not punishing.

Rules: Indeed rules are useful for providing predictability, consistency, and stability. They can be used for a variety of reasons that range from preventing problems from happening to responding to them when they do occur.

Modifying the environment: This refers to steps the parent takes to change or structure the child's environment in a way that helps the child to succeed at tasks and remain safe. Be creative in how you organize, enhance, sooth, redirect and childproof the environment to help promote the child's self-control.

"I-Message": It is more helpful to try to make children aware of how we feel, but leave responsibility for behavioral change with the child. A proper "I-message" identifies: the behavior; how it makes you feel; and a concrete impact this has on your life. For example, "When the music is on that loud I get upset because I can't hear the person I'm talking to on the phone."

Knowledge, Skills, & Personal Qualities Essential for Instilling Effective Discipline

Parents need the following skills to be effective:

1. Patience;
2. Determination;
3. Confidence;
4. Genuineness and concern;
5. Openness;
6. Separateness;
7. Friendly firmness;
8. An understanding of development & the factors that affect development;
9. Effective communication;
10. An understanding of the goals of effective discipline; and
11. An understanding of the meaning of behavior.

Factors Affecting the Choice of the Disciplinary Method

When considering what disciplinary method to use, parents need to think about the following factors:

1. The behavior itself;
2. Our feelings about the behavior;
3. The child;
4. The purpose we assign to the behavior;
5. Where the behavior is occurring;
6. Who is present in the setting;
7. Factors affecting our ability and willingness to respond effectively; and
8. Our relationship with the child.

Content used with permission from the Child Welfare League of America,

For more information or to discuss parenting concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.


Discipline Techniques

1. Focus on internal evaluation, not external.

You must be very proud of yourself.
How do you think you are doing?
I'm so proud of you.

2. Focus on contributions and appreciation, not judgments.

I appreciate the help you gave me.
Your hard work sure did help the family
What a good job you did!

3. Focus on effort and improvement, not winning or competition.

I can see the progress you've made.
You have really been practicing hard.
I'm so proud of you for winning!

Content used with permission from the Child Welfare League of America,


Ignoring Behavior

Many parents don't realize that even scolding and yelling are forms of attention. Children would rather have unpleasant attention than no attention at all. Therefore, when you get angry and punish children you may actually be teaching them to do the exact things you don't want them to do.

Ignoring behavior is simply pretending that the behavior is not occurring. The parent does not look at, talk to or respond to the child until the inappropriate behavior ends.

There are three basic guidelines for ignoring:

* Give the child no recognition when exhibiting unacceptable behavior. Don't have eye contact, physical contact, or in any way acknowledge the child.
* Be consistent with your approach. Ignoring once, and paying attention the next time, will likely increase the intensity of the behavior. The child will think he or she must escalate the behavior in order for you to respond. Expect the intensity of the behavior to increase before it decreases.
* Recognize the child as soon as the unacceptable behavior stops. Ignoring must always be combined with supporting and encouraging positive behaviors.

Points to remember:

* There are situations where ignoring would NOT be appropriate (behaviors that could harm the child, others or property, and those that are not motivated by the desire to create a reaction).
* Ignoring is difficult.
* Ignoring does not always render immediate results.
* Other adults and children in the family (and community) may continue to recognize the behavior, jeopardizing the success of the technique.

Content used with permission from the Child Welfare League of America,

For more information or to discuss parenting concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.

Charts and Rewards

Using Charts

Some parents like to use charts to instill good habits in their children. You could, for example, use a chart for brushing teeth. Even the child too young to read understands a star. Rewards can be given for the achievement of a certain number of stars.

Suggestions for using charts include:

* Keep them small and simple.
* Don't overdo charts.
* Use them for one behavior at a time.
* Determine ahead how to end their use. For example, a child needs to learn how to brush her teeth without a reward.

The Use of Rewards as a Discipline Technique

Rewards do not have to be part of a behavior modification technique. Rewards can be used to express approval for certain behaviors or actions. Rewards are positive responses to positive behaviors and they don't have to be tangible or concrete actions. Like praise, some parents may not think about rewards as a discipline technique.

Some examples of rewards include, but are not limited to:

* Tangible rewards may be what come to mind when we hear the term reward. A tangible reward may be money or a toy. Rewards need to be small. They are "gestures" of approval. Children should not get expensive gifts, or large sums of money as a reward. Nor should children always get tangible rewards. You do not want to promote the sense that a child needs to be good in order to receive gifts. In fact, most tangible rewards have their greatest value in the praise that accompanies them.
* Privileges are rewards that allow a child to experience greater freedom or opportunity. Privileges might involve extending bedtime, giving extra playtime, or allowing a child to borrow or use a valued object. They are most effective when they are connected to the behavior being recognized.
* Increasing responsibility is similar to granting privileges. To reward children for keeping their room picked up, you may increasingly give them total responsibility for the care and cleaning of their room. While this involves work for them, it also says, "You are able to do this on your own. You do not need me coming in your room."
* Supporting interests and talents acknowledges the child's efforts in pursing interests. It is important that you reward the child for interest, desire, and effort. Be clear that the behavior you are rewarding is the child's interest, participation, and efforts, not the child's performance, talent, or ability.

Content used with permission from the Child Welfare League of America,


Sometimes the best form of discipline is to let the child experience the consequences of his or her action. What happens if you fail to put gas in your car? Are you likely to forget to put gas in again? Experience really is the best teacher.

Natural and logical consequences are effective ways to intervene while maintaining respect for the child's ability to make decisions. Consequences rely to some degree on the natural order of life itself to teach lessons about the world. In some instances you might have to arrange for a consequence to happen.

Natural consequences are things that happen in response to a behavior. No one has to make these things happen. They are often the result of the "rules of nature." For example when a child does not eat his dinner, he will get very hungry before he goes to bed. Sometimes a natural consequence is the result of human nature. The child who hits his friends will lose playmates.

A disadvantage of relying on natural consequences is that sometimes they take a long time to work. Also, young children may have difficulty understanding them. Some natural consequences are not desirable.

Logical consequences require that the parent impose a consequence for a given behavior. The consequence connects to the behavior that is not acceptable. For example, if the child leaves the bike out, the parent restricts bike riding the next day.

In order for consequences to be effective you must use them correctly.

* Be sure to provide choices and allow the child to make the decision. For example, "You may turn down the volume of your radio, or listen to it in your room without disturbing others."
* Be calm and firm in your efforts.
* Make sure the consequence holds meaning for the child.
* Be patient and don't jump in and "save" the child. It may be hard for you to watch the child experience the consequences. But this is necessary for the child to develop good self-control.

Content used with permission from the Child Welfare League of America,

For more information or to discuss parenting concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.

Time Out as a Behavior Management Technique

Time out involves physically removing a child from a situation that is dangerous and/or a situation where the child is exhibiting behavior that is not acceptable. The purpose of time out is to allow the child to reestablish self-control, to end unacceptable behavior, and to provide an opportunity to think about behavior and its impact.

Time out is not punishment. It is simply providing the child an opportunity to regain control of his or her behavior. You are helping in that process by removing the child from the situation or the stimulation that brought about the loss of control. If you are angry or yelling, it is doubtful that the time out will be effective. Some basic guidelines for using time out include:

Take time to gain your composure and self-control.

1. Give the child an opportunity to change the behavior.
2. If this effort fails, tell the child where to go for a time out.
3. Select a quiet and safe time out area away form other stimuli.
4. Tell the child how long the time out will be, but explain that you will only begin timing when the child becomes quiet.
5. Ignore the child's behavior while in time out.
6. Focus the child on a positive activity after the time out.

Do time outs in a firm, matter-of-fact way. As with other forms of discipline, consistency and repetition are crucial. If you find yourself using time out very often, you need to reexamine your expectations. Maybe they are unrealistic for a child that age. Time out should be used sparingly or it will cease to be effective. If you decide to use it, select a single behavior and use it for that behavior.

Time out can be an effective tool for anyone feeling overwhelmed or angry. But, we know it will not be an effective tool with a child if it is used in anger. There will always be situations where you find yourself overwhelmed with feelings. It may be helpful to you to think about whether you need to give a time out to the child, or take a time out for yourself.

Content used with permission from the Child Welfare League of America,

We provide access (links) to some external websites for your convenience. The EAP is not responsible for the availability, accuracy, or content of those outside resources or sites, nor does it endorse them. This site is not an attempt to provide any counseling or other type of intervention.

For more information or to discuss parenting concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.

Modifying the Environment

Modifying the environment can be a very useful tool in helping children develop self-control. It is precautionary in that it attempts to prevent difficulties from arising. It is reactive in that it can be done in response to a problem.

The following list includes techniques for building success into the child's environment. Think of some concrete examples or ideas for every category that you may use. You can be creative in how you wish to modify the environment to help promote the child's self-control.

* ORGANIZING helps children learn how to sort, pick up and find their own things. Organizing increases the child's ability to accomplish self-care tasks.
* ENHANCING the environment involves those activities that make the child's world full of age-appropriate and interesting items. Posters, books, wall hangings and toys enhance the child's environment. This helps children learn how to spend time alone, occupy themselves, develop hobbies, focus and concentrate.
* SOOTHING is a technique used most often with babies, particularly babies who are born cocaine-affected. Essentially sources of stimulation are removed from the environment. These may include light, noise, activity, bright colors, etc.
* REDIRECTING does not restrict activities, but rather structures them to occur in a different way. Establishing certain rooms for certain activities is one way to redirect. Exchanging a safe item for an unsafe one is another way.
* CHILDPROOFING is something you probably do and don't even think about it. This is critical in terms of making the child's world safe. If you are concerned about the child breaking something, it is best to put it away. It is the job of the toddler to grab and explore. Help the child do that job well. Don't be concerned that the toddler will be unable to learn not to touch or break things. It would be impossible for you to control the child's entire environment to the extent that the child would never be exposed to forbidden items.

Content used with permission from the Child Welfare League of America,

Discipline Guide
Learning how to effectively discipline your child is an important skill that all parents need to learn. Discipline is not the same as punishment. Instead, discipline has to do more with teaching, and involves teaching your child right from wrong, how to respect the rights of others, which behaviors are acceptable and which are not, with a goal of helping to develop a child who feels secure and loved, is self-confident, self-disciplined and knows how to control his impulses, and who does not get overly frustrated with the normal stresses of everyday life.

Related Topics

Parenting Styles
Encouraging Good Behavior
Effective Discipline
Discipline Techniques
Reverse Psychology
Stopping Interruptions
If you are having difficulty disciplining your child, it is important to remember that you may not be doing anything wrong. All children are different and have different temperaments and developmental levels and a style of discipline that may work with other children may not work with yours.

You should understand that how you behave when disciplining your child will help to determine how your child is going to behave or misbehave in the future. If you give in after your child repeatedly argues, becomes violent or has a temper tantrum, then he will learn to repeat this behavior because he knows you may eventually give in (even if it is only once in a while that you do give in). If you are firm and consistent then he will learn that it doesn't pay to fight doing what he is eventually going to have to do anyway. Some children, however, will feel like they won if they put off doing something that they didn't want to do for even a few minutes.

Be consistent in your methods of discipline and how you punish your child. This applies to all caregivers. It is normal for children to test their limits, and if you are inconsistent in what these limits are, then you will be encouraging more misbehavior.

Looking for help learning to discipine your strong-willed or difficult child? Read our review of Setting Limits with your Strong-Willed Child, a great resource for parents looking for help to learn how they can understand and effectively discipline their children, especially if they are strong-willed or can be described as 'challenging, difficult, spirited, stubborn, hell-raising, a pistol or just plain impossible.'
Important Reminders about Discipline:

* Stay calm and do not get carried away when your child misbehaves. Avoid yelling and screaming, since this can teach your child that it is all right to lose control if you don't get your way. If you feel like things are escalating too much, then take a break until you can regain your composure.
* Avoid too much criticism. Make sure your child understands that it is the misbehavior that you are unhappy with and that you will always love him.
* Avoid too much praise. You don't need to be continuously praising your child, especially for routine activities, because it will make your comments less effective.
* Don't focus on negatives all of the time, especially when offering positive reinforcement. It is much better to say ‘I like that you put all of your clothes away,' instead of saying ‘I like that, for once, you finally got around to putting your clothes away without my asking.'
* Avoid physical punishment. Spanking has never been shown to be more effective than other forms of punishment and will make your child more aggressive and angry.
* Remember to give rewards and praise for good behavior.
* Understand the difference between rewards and bribes. A reward is something your child receives after he has done something, while a bribe is given beforehand, to try and motivate your child to do what you want. Bribes should be avoided.
* Be a good role model.
* Most importantly, provide your child with a safe environment in which he feels secure and loved.

Next Topic > Parenting Styles > 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Discipline Internet Resources:

* Discipline and Your Child: AAP parent's guide to discipline, explaining the difference between discipline and punishment, how to encourage good behavior, tips to avoid trouble, and strategies that work, including using natural consequences, logical consequences, withholding privileges and time-out. Plus six tips to make discipline more effective and information about why spanking is not the best choice.
* Disciplining Your Child: Information from about disciplining your children at different stages of their life and a word about spanking.
* Guidance for Effective Discipline: American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on discipline using a developmental approach, plus strategies for effective discipline and punishment.
* Effective Discipline for Young Children: Learn to understand children's behavior better, how to prevent misbehavior, how to deal with misbehavior, that discipline helps children learn how to behave, that there are many acceptable ways to discipline children.
* Discipline Facts: 'Helping a child to behave in an acceptable manner is a necessary part of raising the child well. Discipline varies at different ages. There is no one right way to raise children, but child and adolescent psychiatrists offer the following general guidelines...'
* BabyCenter Discipline Articles: Articles to help you discipline your baby and toddler.
* Behavior Problems and Solutions: Articles to help you discipline your preschool and school age children, including discipline strategies, and dealing with behavior problems at home, school, and at play.

Related Links

* discipline
* children
* behaviors
* wrong
* temperaments
* behave
* misbehave
* temper
* tantrum
* find books about discipline and children


When advising families about discipline strategies, pediatricians should use a comprehensive approach that includes consideration of the parent-child relationship, reinforcement of desired behaviors, and consequences for negative behaviors. Corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents be encouraged and assisted in the development of methods other than spanking for managing undesired behavior.


Parents often ask pediatricians for advice about the provision of appropriate and effective discipline. In fact, 90% of pediatricians report that they include advice about discipline when providing anticipatory guidance to families.1 The American Academy of Pediatrics held a consensus conference on corporal punishment, the report of which was published in Pediatrics and serves as one major source of information for this statement.2

The word discipline, which comes from the root word disciplinare---to teach or instruct---refers to the system of teaching and nurturing that prepares children to achieve competence, self-control, self-direction, and caring for others.3 An effective discipline system must contain three vital elements: 1) a learning environment characterized by positive, supportive parent-child relationships; 2) a strategy for systematic teaching and strengthening of desired behaviors (proactive); and 3) a strategy for decreasing or eliminating undesired or ineffective behaviors (reactive). Each of these components needs to be functioning adequately for discipline to result in improved child behavior.

The earliest discipline strategy is passive and occurs as infants and their caregivers gradually develop a mutually satisfactory schedule of feeding, sleeping, and awakening. Biologic rhythms tend to become more regular and adapt to family routines. Signals of discomfort, such as crying and thrashing, are modified as infants acquire memories of how their distress has been relieved and learn new strategies to focus attention on their emerging needs.4

The main parental discipline for infants is to provide generally structured daily routines but also to learn to recognize and respond flexibly to the infant's needs. As infants become more mobile and initiate more contact with the environment, parents must impose limitations and structure to create safe spaces for them to explore and play. Equally important, parents must protect them from potential hazards (eg, by installing safety covers on electric outlets and by removing dangerous objects from their reach) and introduce activities that distract their children from potential hazards. Such proactive behaviors are central to discipline for toddlers. Communicating verbally (a firm no) helps prepare the infant for later use of reasoning, but parents should not expect reasoning, verbal commands, or reprimands to manage the behavior of infants or toddlers.

As children grow older and interact with wider, more complex physical and social environments, the adults who care for them must develop increasingly creative strategies to protect them and teach them orderly and desirable patterns of behavior. As a result of consistent structure and teaching (discipline), children integrate the attitudes and expectations of their caregivers into their behavior. Preschoolers begin to develop an understanding of rules, and their behavior is guided by these rules and by the consequences associated with them. As children become school age, these rules become internalized and are accompanied by an increasing sense of responsibility and self-control. Responsibility for behavior is transferred gradually from the caregiving adult to the child, and is especially noticeable during the transition to adolescence. Thus, parents must be prepared to modify their discipline approach over time, using different strategies as the child develops greater independence and capacity for self-regulation and responsibility. The process can be more challenging with children who have developmental disabilities and may require additional or more intense strategies to manage their behavior.

Effective discipline requires three essential components: 1) a positive, supportive, loving relationship between the parent(s) and child, 2) use of positive reinforcement strategies to increase desired behaviors, and 3) removing reinforcement or applying punishment to reduce or eliminate undesired behaviors. All components must be functioning well for discipline to be successful.

Promoting Optimal Parent-Child Relationships and Reinforcing Positive Behaviors

For discipline techniques to be most effective, they must occur in the context of a relationship in which children feel loved and secure. In this context, parents' responses to children's behavior, whether approving or disapproving, are likely to have the greatest effect because the parents' approval is important to the children. Parental responses within the context of loving and secure relationships also provide children with a sense that their environment is stable and that a competent adult is taking care of them, which leads to the development of a sense of personal worth. As children respond to the positive nature of the relationship and consistent discipline, the need for frequent negative interactions decreases, and the quality of the relationship improves further for both parents and children. To this end, the best educators of children are people who are good role models and about whom children care enough to want to imitate and please. Certain conditions in the parent-child relationship have been found to be especially important in promoting positive child behavior, including:

* maintaining a positive emotional tone in the home through play and parental warmth and affection for the child5;
* providing attention to the child to increase positive behavior (conversely ignoring, removing, or withholding parent attention to decrease the frequency or intensity of undesirable behaviors).6 For older children, attention includes being aware of and interested in their school and other activities;
* providing consistency in the form of regular times and patterns for daily activities and interactions to reduce resistance, convey respect for the child, and make negative experiences less stressful7;
* responding consistently to similar behavioral situations to promote more harmonious parent- child relationships and more positive child outcomes8; and
* being flexible, particularly with older children and adolescents, through listening and negotiation to reduce fewer episodes of child noncompliance with parental expectations.8 Involving the child in decision-making has been associated with long-term enhancement in moral judgment.9

These factors are important in developing a positive, growth-enhancing relationship between parent and child. Even in the best relationships, however, parents will need to provide behavioral limits that their children will not like, and children will behave in ways that are unacceptable to parents. Disagreement and emotional discord occur in all families, but in families with reinforcing positive parent-child relationships and clear expectations and goals for behavior, these episodes are less frequent and less disruptive.

Rewarding Desirable or Effective Behaviors

The word discipline usually connotes strategies to reduce or eliminate undesirable behaviors. However, more successful child-rearing systems use procedures to both increase desirable behaviors and decrease undesirable behaviors. Eliminating undesirable behavior without having a strategy to stimulate more desirable behavior generally is not effective. The most critical part of discipline involves helping children learn behaviors that meet parental expectations, are effective in promoting positive social relationships, and help them develop a sense of self-discipline that leads to positive self-esteem. Behaviors that the parents value and want to encourage need to be identified by the parents and understood by their children.

Many desirable behavioral patterns emerge as part of the child's normal development, and the role of adults is to notice these behaviors and provide positive attention to strengthen and refine them. Other desirable behaviors are not part of a child's natural repertoire and need to be taught, such as sharing, good manners, empathy, study habits, and behaving according to principles despite the fact that immediate rewards for other behaviors (eg, lying or stealing) may be present. These behaviors must be taught to children through modeling by parents and shaping skills through parental attention and encouragement. It is much easier to stop undesired behaviors than to develop new, effective behaviors. Therefore, parents must identify the positive behaviors and skills that they want for their children and make a concerted effort to teach and strengthen these behaviors.

Strategies for parents and other caregivers that help children learn positive behaviors include:

* providing regular positive attention, sometimes called special time (opportunities to communicate positively are important for children of all ages);
* listening carefully to children and helping them learn to use words to express their feelings;
* providing children with opportunities to make choices whenever appropriate options exist and then helping them learn to evaluate the potential consequences of their choice;
* reinforcing emerging desirable behaviors with frequent praise and ignoring trivial misdeeds; and
* modeling orderly, predictable behavior, respectful communication, and collaborative conflict resolution strategies.10

Such strategies have several potential benefits: the desired behavior is more likely to become internalized, the newly learned behavior will be a foundation for other desirable behaviors, and the emotional environment in the family will be more positive, pleasant, and supportive.

Reducing and Eliminating Undesirable Behavior

When undesirable behavior occurs, discipline strategies to reduce or eliminate such behavior are needed.11 Undesirable behavior includes behavior that places the child or others in danger, is noncompliant with the reasonable expectations and demands of the parents or other appropriate adults (eg, teachers), and interferes with positive social interactions and self-discipline. Some of these behaviors require an immediate response because of danger or risk to the child. Other undesirable behaviors require a consistent consequence to prevent generalization of the behavior to other situations. Some problems, particularly those that involve intense emotional exchanges, may be handled best by taking a break from the situation and discussing it later when emotions have subsided, developing alternative ways to handle the situation (removing attention), or, in many cases, avoiding these situations altogether.

Extinction including time-out and removal of privileges, and punishment are two common discipline approaches that have been associated with reducing undesired behavior. These different strategies, sometimes both confusingly called punishment, are effective if applied appropriately to specific behaviors. Although they both reduce undesired behavior, they work in very different ways and have very different short- and long-term effects. For both strategies, the following factors may increase the effectiveness:

* clarity on the part of the parent and child about what the problem behavior is and what consequence the child can expect when this behavior occurs;
* providing a strong and immediate initial consequence when the targeted behavior first occurs;
* consistently providing an appropriate consequence each time a targeted problematic behavior occurs;
* delivering instruction and correction calmly and with empathy; and
* providing a reason for a consequence for a specific behavior, which helps children beyond toddler age to learn the appropriate behavior12 and improves their overall compliance with requests from adults.13

Occasionally, the consequence for an undesired behavior is immediate, without parental involvement (eg, breaking one's own toy), and may be effective in teaching children to change their behavior. When this consequence is combined with parental reprimand, there is an increase in the likelihood that the child's behavior will be affected for future similar situations.

Time-Out or Removal of Privileges

Time-out and removal of privileges are approaches that involve removing positive reinforcement for unacceptable behavior. For young children, time-out usually involves removing parental attention and praise (ignoring) or being placed in a chair for a specified time with no adult interaction. For older children and adolescents, this strategy usually involves removing privileges or denying participation in activities (eg, grounding for an evening with no TV or loss of driving privileges). To be effective, this strategy requires that a valued privilege or reinforcer is removed. In preschool children, time-out (removal of positive parental attention) has been shown to increase compliance with parental expectations from ~25% to 80%,12 and similar effectiveness is seen when used appropriately with older children.14 To be effective, however, time-out must be used consistently, for an appropriate duration, not excessively, and with strategies for managing escape behavior in place before the time-out is imposed. To be successful, time-out requires effort and practice on the part of the parents and, in some cases, requires specific education with a professional.

Several aspects of time-out must be considered to ensure effectiveness. When time-out is first implemented, it usually will result in increased negative behavior by the child, who will test the new limit with a display of emotional behavior, sometimes approaching a temper tantrum. The parent who accepts this normal reaction and does not respond to the child's behavior will find that outbursts become less frequent and that the targeted undesirable behavior also diminishes or disappears. When time-out is used appropriately, the child's feelings are neither persistent nor damaging to self-esteem, despite the intensity of the reaction. However, if the parent engages in verbal or physical interaction with the child during this disruptive behavior, the emotional outburst, as well as the behavior originally targeted, not only will persist, but may worsen. Second, time-out often is not effective immediately, although it is highly effective as a long-term strategy. Third, it is often difficult emotionally for a parent to ignore the child during periods of increased negative behaviors or when the child begins pleading and bargaining for time-out to end. The inability of parents to deal with their own distress during a time-out is one of the most common reasons for its failure.

Punishment is defined as the application of a negative stimulus to reduce or eliminate a behavior. There are two types typically used with children: punishment involving verbal reprimands and disapproval and punishment involving physical pain, as in corporal punishment.

Verbal Reprimands

Many parents use disapproving verbal statements as a form of punishment to alter undesired behavior. When used infrequently and targeted toward specific behaviors, such reprimands may be transiently effective in immediately halting or reducing undesirable behaviors. However, if used frequently and indiscriminately, verbal reprimands lose their effectiveness and become reinforcers of undesired behavior because they provide attention to the child. Verbal reprimands given by parents during time-out are a major cause of reduced effectiveness of this form of discipline. Verbal reprimands should refer to the undesirable behavior and not slander the child's character.

Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment involves the application of some form of physical pain in response to undesirable behavior. Corporal punishment ranges from slapping the hand of a child about to touch a hot stove to identifiable child abuse, such as beatings, scaldings, and burnings. Because of this range in the form and severity of punishment, its use as a discipline strategy is controversial. Although significant concerns have been raised about the negative effects of physical punishment and its potential escalation into abuse, a form of physical punishment---spanking---remains one of the strategies used most commonly to reduce undesired behaviors, with >90% of American families reporting having used spanking as a means of discipline at some time.15 Spanking, as discussed here, refers to striking a child with an open hand on the buttocks or extremities with the intention of modifying behavior without causing physical injury. Other forms of physical punishment, such as striking a child with an object, striking a child on parts of the body other than the buttocks or extremities, striking a child with such intensity that marks lasting more than a few minutes occur, pulling a child's hair, jerking a child by the arm, shaking a child, and physical punishment delivered in anger with intent to cause pain, are unacceptable and may be dangerous to the health and well-being of the child. These types of physical punishment should never be used.

Despite its common acceptance, and even advocacy for its use,16 spanking is a less effective strategy than time-out or removal of privileges for reducing undesired behavior in children. Although spanking may immediately reduce or stop an undesired behavior, its effectiveness decreases with subsequent use. The only way to maintain the initial effect of spanking is to systematically increase the intensity with which it is delivered, which can quickly escalate into abuse. Thus, at best, spanking is only effective when used in selective infrequent situations.

The following consequences of spanking lessen its desirability as a strategy to eliminate undesired behavior.

* Spanking children <18 months of age increases the chance of physical injury, and the child is unlikely to understand the connection between the behavior and the punishment.
* Although spanking may result in a reaction of shock by the child and cessation of the undesired behavior, repeated spanking may cause agitated, aggressive behavior in the child that may lead to physical altercation between parent and child.
* Spanking models aggressive behavior as a solution to conflict and has been associated with increased aggression in preschool and school children.17
* Spanking and threats of spanking lead to altered parent-child relationships, making discipline substantially more difficult when physical punishment is no longer an option, such as with adolescents.
* Spanking is no more effective as a long-term strategy than other approaches,18 and reliance on spanking as a discipline approach makes other discipline strategies less effective to use.19 Time-out and positive reinforcement of other behaviors are more difficult to implement and take longer to become effective when spanking has previously been a primary method of discipline.
* A pattern of spanking may be sustained or increased. Because spanking may provide the parent some relief from anger, the likelihood that the parent will spank the child in the future is increased.20

Parents who spank their children are more likely to use other unacceptable forms of corporal punishment.21 The more children are spanked, the more anger they report as adults, the more likely they are to spank their own children, the more likely they are to approve of hitting a spouse, and the more marital conflict they experience as adults.20 Spanking has been associated with higher rates of physical aggression, more substance abuse, and increased risk of crime and violence22 when used with older children and adolescents.

Because of the negative consequences of spanking and because it has been demonstrated to be no more effective than other approaches for managing undesired behavior in children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents be encouraged and assisted in developing methods other than spanking in response to undesired behavior.

The Pediatrician's Role

Encouraging alternative methods may evoke strong responses from some parents and pediatricians because 90% of parents in the United States spank their children, and most adults were spanked when they were children. A survey indicated that <= 59% of pediatricians support the use of corporal punishment, at least in certain situations.1 Support for spanking is higher in response to a child who runs into the street than it is as a punishment for hitting another child, even though the adult reaction of fear is the most effective deterrent in the former. As with other adults, pediatricians have learned much of their parenting skills from their own parents, who likely used spanking, and find their parents' practices more acceptable than other methods.23 Changing discipline methods in the United States is likely to take time and to occur gradually, but it should be a goal of pediatricians and parents.

Discussing discipline with parents can be difficult and emotionally charged because opinions about these practices are formed in childhood. This learning occurred under emotional circumstances and is affected by parents' needs to justify their own parents' practices. Also, some religious groups take strong positions on this issue, often in favor of corporal punishment. In addition, discipline practices are under public scrutiny because of the increasing recognition of child abuse, which pediatricians are required to report. As a result, parents may be cautious about discussing their discipline practices. One effective way to start a discussion is by making an observation about the child's behavior during a health care visit and asking about the child's behavior at home. If parents comment negatively about their child's behavior, the severity of the problem should be determined. Eliciting specific examples of disciplinary encounters and responding nonjudgmentally to them are key to understanding the degree of behavioral disturbance24 and the appropriateness of parental response. Asking about the parents' childhood experiences with discipline, their decision about how they would discipline as parents, and what other key people in their lives say about how they should discipline their children can be beneficial to understanding the parents' philosophy about discipline. It is important to obtain information about all three aspects of the system of discipline (parent-child relationship, shaping and teaching desired behavior, and reducing undesired behavior) to determine which aspects may require intervention.3 Generally, a visit with all the key caregiving adults is most effective when there is a problem, although this may not be necessary in cases involving minor discipline problems.25 Parenting is difficult; parents deserve information, encouragement, and support over time.

Specific Physician Activities

When counseling families about discipline, physicians need to26:

1. be clear about what constitutes acceptable discipline;
2. avoid displaying strong emotions during the visit;
3. work to understand the parents' justification of their current practices and address their reasoning when presenting alternatives (offer privacy from children during this discussion);
4. demonstrate interest and expertise in child development and behavior during general visits to develop credibility for future discussions about discipline;
5. use good interviewing skills to show empathy;
6. let the family lead in individualizing a plan and choosing among techniques presented that are acceptable to them. Address the views of other influential family members;
7. look for examples of the parents' effective discipline approach; help them gain strength and generalize from those to other situations. Suggest ways to modify the family's techniques to make them more effective and appropriate;
8. follow up on the discipline discussion in subsequent conversations, by phone or in person;
9. discuss discipline during well-child visits when the child is young to help parents establish reasonable behavioral control. It is preferable to work toward preventing problems, because established negative behaviors often are extremely difficult to change;
10. identify parenting programs and individual counselors who are available in your community for parents with more difficult parenting problems; and
11. participate in public education and advocacy to change cultural attitudes about discipline.

The aspects of the system of discipline presented herein are effective when used at home, in out-of-home child care, at school, and in laboratory settings. Parents can be taught the use of appropriate discipline effectively through reading27; at-home family review of videotapes presenting behavioral situations28; individual instruction by a nurse in a health care setting29; individual or family counseling with a competent professional; group didactic teaching; or group instruction with modeling, role-playing, videotapes, or direct feedback about their parent-child interactions.30 The intensity and duration of intervention needed to produce a change in family interaction depend on the severity of the child's behavior problems and on other stresses in the family, rather than on income level or social class. Studies have shown generalization from laboratory settings to the home, school,28 and untreated sibling behavior, and across time. Pediatricians must be creative, persistent, and hopeful to generate change in the gradual manner in which it is likely to occur. A broader view of discipline needs to include the entire social structure. For example, cultures with children with relatively few behavior problems have been characterized by clear role definitions, clear expectations for the child's active work role in the family, very stable family constellations, and involvement of other community members in child care and supervision.31 Advocacy by pediatricians for other supports within communities also is desirable.

1. Parents are more likely to use aversive techniques of discipline when they are angry or irritable, depressed, fatigued, and stressed. In 44% of those surveyed, corporal punishment was used >= 50% of the time because the parent had lost it. Approximately 85% expressed moderate to high anger, remorse, and agitation while punishing their children.21 These findings challenge most the notion that parents can spank in a calm, planned manner. It is best not to administer any punishments while in a state of anger.
2. Spanking of young children is highly correlated with continued spanking of school and adolescent children.20 More than half of 13- and 14-year-olds are still being hit an average eight times per year.17 Parents who have relied on spanking do not seem to shift strategies when the risks of detrimental effects increase with developmental age, as has been argued.
3. Spanking of preschool boys by fathers with whom the child identified only moderately or little resulted in increased aggressive behavior by those children.17
4. Corporal punishment in two-parent, middle class families occurred weekly in 25%, was associated with the use of an object occasionally in 35% and half of the time in 17%, caused considerable pain at times in 12%, and inflicted lasting marks at times in 5%.21 Thus, striking children in the abusive range is neither rare nor confined to families of lower socioeconomic class, as has been asserted.
5. Although children may view spanking as justified and symbolic of parental concern for them, they rate spanking as causing some or much pain in more than half of cases and generally experience anger at the adult as a result. Despite this, children come to accept spanking as a parent's right at an early age, making changes in adult acceptance of spanking more difficult.21
6. The more children are hit, the more anger they report as adults, the more they hit their own children when they are parents, the more likely they are to approve of hitting and to actually hit their spouses, and the greater their marital conflict.20
7. Although 93% of parents justify spanking, 85% say that they would rather not if they had an alternative in which they believed.21 One study found that 54% of mothers said that spanking was the wrong thing to have done in at least half of the times they used it.20 This ambivalence likely results in inconsistent use, which limits further its effectiveness as a teaching tool.
8. Although spanking has been shown to be effective as a back-up to enforce a time-out location, it was not more effective than use of a barrier as an alternative.32
9. Even controlling for baseline antisocial behavior, the more 3- to 6-year-old children were hit, the worse their behavior when assessed 2 years later.20
10. Actions causing pain such as spanking can acquire a positive value rather than the intended adversive value.31 Children who expect pain may actually seek it through escalating misbehaviors.
11. Parents who spank are more likely to use other forms of corporal punishment and a greater variety of verbal and other punitive methods.22 When punishment fails, parents who rely on it tend to increase the intensity of its use rather than to change strategies.

Pediatrics (ISSN 0031 4005). Copyright ©1998 by the American Academy of Pediatrics

Spanking: Facts and Fiction


Corporal punishment:
Synonymous with “physical punishment.” It means the intentional infliction of pain on the body for purposes of punishment or controlling behavior. It includes slapping, spanking, hitting with objects, pinching, shaking, and forcing to stand for long periods of time.

Hitting with the flat of the hand usually on the buttocks for punishment or for stopping a behavior.

In the United States, spanking as punishment has shown a long-term decline. In the 1950's, ninety-nine percent of parents supported the use of corporal punishment of children. In recent years that number has fallen. Surveys generally report about fifty percent of parents supporting its use. Studies show that a majority of parents who use corporal punishment feel badly about it and don't think it works to improve behavior.

Parents who support spanking often use one of the following arguments:

* Spanking is an effective way to manage behavior.
* I got hit when I was a kid and I turned out OK.
* If we don’t spank children, they’ll grow up rotten.
* The bible says, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”

Look at the facts:

Spanking argument #1 - “Spanking is an effective way to manage behavior”

Hitting a small child will usually stop misbehavior temporarily. However, other ways of discipline such as verbal correction, reasoning, and time-out work as well and do not have the potential for harm that hitting does. Hitting children may actually increase misbehavior. One large study showed that the more parents spanked children for antisocial behavior, the more the antisocial behavior increased (Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997). The more children are hit, the more likely they are to hit others including peers and siblings and, as adults, they are more likely to hit their spouses (Straus and Gelles, 1990; Wolfe, 1987). Hitting children teaches them that it is acceptable to hit others who are smaller and weaker. “I'm going to hit you because you hit your sister” is a hypocrisy not lost on children.

Spanking argument #2 - “I got hit when I was a kid and I turned out OK”

Being spanked is an emotional event. Adults often remember with crystal clarity times they were paddled or spanked as children. Many adults look back on corporal punishment in childhood with great anger and sadness. Sometimes people say, “I was spanked as a child, and I deserved it”. It is hard for us to believe that people who loved us would intentionally hurt us. We feel the need to excuse that hurt. Studies show that even a few instances of being hit as children are associated with more depressive symptoms as adults (Strauss, 1994, Strassberg, Dodge, Pettit & Bates, 1994). A landmark meta-analysis of 88 corporal punishment research studies of over six decades showed that corporal punishment of children was associated with negative outcomes including increased delinquent and antisocial behavior, increased risk of child abuse and spousal abuse, increased risk of child aggression and adult aggression, decreased child mental health and decreased adult mental health (Gershoff, 2002). While most of us who were spanked “turned out OK”, it is likely that not being spanked would have helped us turn out to be healthier.

Spanking Argument #3 - “If we don't spank children, they'll grow up rotten”

Children in more than twenty countries are growing up without being hit in homes, in daycare or in schools. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Finland and other countries that have banned corporal punishment of children in general have low rates of interpersonal violence compared to the United States. Critics predicted that Swedish youth would grow up more unruly after parents stopped spanking because of the l979 corporal punishment ban. Dr. Joan Durrant who studied effects of the ban for l5 years reported that this did not happen. Her studies indicate youth did not become more unruly, under socialized or self-destructive following the ban. In fact, she said most measures demonstrated a substantial improvement in youth well-being (Durrant, 2000). Professor Adrienne Haeuser who studied these educational laws in Europe in 1981 and 1991 said “Children are receiving more discipline since the law in Sweden passed. Parents think twice and tend to rely more on verbal conflict resolution to manage their children”. Discipline is important. Discipline means “to teach”. We need more discipline of children such as explaining and reasoning, establishing rules and consequences, praising good behavior in children and being good models for or children. Such methods develop a child's conscience and self-control. Children who experience teaching discipline are less likely to misbehave and more likely to become self-disciplined adults.

Spanking Argument #4 - “The bible says 'Spare the rod and spoil the child' and I must obey God”

Spanking is deeply rooted in the history and culture of the United States. The bible is often used to support, even perhaps to require, that parents use corporal punishment on children. Many clergy today are speaking out against that interpretation of scripture. The Reverend Dr. Thomas E. Sagendorf, retired Methodist Minister, says the following “I can find no sanction in the teaching of Jesus or the witness of the New Testament to encourage the practice of corporal punishment at home, school or anywhere else. A number of popular voices take a different view, often quoting Old Testament scriptures to prove their point. Those who subscribe to this argument misunderstand and misuse scripture. A similar method of selective reading could just as well be used to justify slavery, suppression of women, polygamy, incest and infanticide”. At its General Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in April and May, 2004, the United Methodist Church passed two resolutions against corporal punishment in homes, schools and child-care. The United Methodist Church is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States.


Look at the facts. Accumulated research supports the ineffectiveness and harm of corporal punishment. Children who are spanked most are more likely to be aggressive and hit others. Children hit for antisocial behaviors are more likely to increase those misbehaviors. Hitting children teaches acceptance of violence. While most of us who were spanked as children grow up to be healthy adults, spanking causes anxiety, contributes to feelings of helplessness and humiliation, and often provokes anger and a desire for revenge, feelings which have usually been repressed in adulthood but may lead to depression, adult violence, and hitting our own children. Effective discipline exists. It does not involve hitting and humiliating children.

Children have to be taught discipline. They are not born with it. Little by little parents have to teach it to them. While teaching discipline does take time and practice, it gets easier as children learn to control their own behavior. And best of all, teaching discipline does not have to hurt either the parents or the kids.
Parents ask.. What is discipline?

Discipline is helping children develop self-control. Discipline is setting limits and correcting misbehavior. Discipline also is encouraging children, guiding them, helping them feel good about themselves, and teaching them how to think for themselves.
Is spanking a useful approach to discipline?

No. Discipline should help children learn how to control their own behavior. Spanking is used to directly control children's behavior. Spanking does not teach children how to change what they do, as good discipline should.
Isn't is easier to just spank my children?

It may seem easy at the time. But babies who are hit often cry louder. Older children who are hit often are learning to solve problems by hitting others. Many parents notice that after a spanking children may settle down for a while, but pretty soon they start misbehaving again.
Won't spanking teach children whom boss?

Kids do need to know that the adult is in charge. Spanking can teach children to be afraid of the adult in charge. Good discipline teaches children to respect the adult in charge. Respect goes both ways- treat children with respect and let them have some control, and they will respect you and listen to you.
Won't spanking make my children afraid to misbehave?

It can. Spanking can make children afraid to misbehave, but probably only when you are watching. Children need to learn to control their own behavior even when you are not around to watch them.
Don't children need a good spanking sometimes?

No child needs a spanking. Spanking can be dangerous. You can never tell when children will be hurt badly by a spanking if you lose control. Children do not need to be hit in order to learn how to behave.
If I do not spank, then what can I do?

You can do lots of things that will help your children learn self-control - you can help them feel good about themselves, you can show them how a person with self-control acts, you can guide them, you can set limits, you can correct misbehavior by talking to them, and you can teach them how to think for themselves.
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What can I do to help my children feel good about themselves?

Let them know what they are doing right, as well as about the mistakes they make. Hearing good things makes us feel good and makes us want to do more good things. Say two nice but true things to children for every time you correct them. Remember, when they are changing their behavior, tell them how well they are doing, even if they only improve just a little. "Great, you played in the playground all morning without fighting."
What do I need to do to guide them?

One thing is to set routines for bedtime, meals and chores. Routines help children feel safe, because they know what parents expect.

Young children have a hard time going from one activity to another. Warning them a few minutes ahead helps them get ready. You can say, "You have five more minutes before bedtime." Be clear about their choices. "You can have milk or juice, but you can't have soda."

Remind them of your rules. Just saying no is not enough. Children often need reminders.
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How can I set limits

Here are some tips for setting limits:

1. Start with only a few rules. The more rules you have, the harder it will be for your children to remember them.
2. Be sure you know why you are saying no. As a parent you must keep your children healthy and safe. You must help your children learn to get along with other people. And you must stick to what you believe in. Explain your reasons for saying no. Be sure your child understands your reasons. "You cannot take your bike across town because there is too much traffic and you might get hurt."
3. Give kids a voice. Kids need a voice in setting limits. They need a chance to tell you what they think and feel. Even a child of five or six can talk with you and help you set fair limits. When kids help you make rules, they are more likely to obey them. It's important to understand their point of view, but just because you listen to them does not mean that you have to agree with them and change your rules. You can set many limits together, though some may have to be set by you alone.
4. Say what you mean. Be very clear about your limits. For example, state clearly the hour you want your child to be home. Say " 12 o'clock" instead of "Not too late."

Will my children like me when I set down limits? Will they think I'm a "meanie"?

Setting limits does not make you a "meanie" forever - not if you are fair. When you stick to your limits, your children may not like what you are doing. It makes sense that they might be unhappy. Try not to get upset. It only makes things worse.

Accept their feelings, but stick to your limits. For example, say, "It is hard to leave when you are having so much fun, but it is time to go." Fair limits show that you care. If you set limits by yourself that are unfair and too strict, your children will try to get back at you. If you do not set any limits, your children will push and push until someone sets a limit for them, maybe even a school principal or a policeman.
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What do I do when my children break the rules?

Stay calm. Do what is fair. Sometimes, your children can help you decide what is fair to do when a rule is broken. Do something that makes sense and will help them learn not to make the same mistake again. For example, if they write on the wall, have them help clean it up.

You can use these problem-solving steps to help children think through what happened and figure out how they can help themselves not make the same mistake again:

1. Have the child say what the problem is ("I want to go across town, and my parent says I cannot take my bike").
2. Have the child come up with as many solutions as possible. At this point, the number of ideas is more important than how good the ideas are ("I could walk. I could take the bus. I could bike halfway and walk the rest of the way").
3. Discuss solutions together and have the child choose which solution to try next time. Be sure it is a solution you can both accept ("I will take the bus").
4. Try out the solution.
5. Check the results. If it works, great. If not, start again.

Two important messages come across to children when you use this approach. First, no problem is so great that you cannot solve it. Second, you are responsible for your own behavior.
What should I do when I am so angry that I think I am going to lose my temper and all I want to do is hit or scream at my child?

Find a way to help yourself calm down so that you do not do or say something you will be sorry for later. If your children are old enough to be left alone or if there is another adult with your children, go somewhere else until you calm down. Tell your children what you are doing. Take a walk, go to another room, or even lock yourself in the bathroom. Try to stay away no longer than five or ten minutes. When you come back to your children, calmly explain your feelings.

Other ways to calm down are to listen to music, take a few deep breaths, or count backwards from ten. Try to do something with your hands to keep them busy - bake a cake, wash a counter, draw, write what you are feeling, or even just scribble. To help yourself not say anything you'll be sorry for later, chew gum, sing or even put your hand up to your mouth.

Remember, what you do always teaches your children what to do. If you lash out, won't your children learn to do the same? If you do lash out, apologize to your child. Saying "I'm sorry" teaches them what to do if they offend others.
What do I do if my children get really angry because I discipline them?

Their anger is no reason to feel as though you're a bad person. Often children get angry when disciplined. As long as you are being fair, it's okay. Let them be angry but you keep your cool. Children must get their angry feelings out. Help them take time-out - draw, build something, play with clay, listen to music or go to a room alone and scream. Most important, when they are ready, help them talk about their feelings. Letting children get their feelings out is like taking out a splinter before it gets infected.

Teach them how to talk about their feelings without hurting or attacking other people. "I feel angry when I cannot go across town, because I want to be with my friends."

Remember: Discipline is how adults teach children to grow to be happy, safe, well-adjusted members of society. Raising children is a tough job, but as children learn to control their own behavior, discipline gets easier and easier. It's well worth the initial effort as your children become responsible for their actions. And you can feel proud that your loving care guided them on their way!
Stop using words that hurt. Start using words that help.
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Marilyn E. Gootman, Ed.D., teaches early childhood education at the University of Georgia and is the mother of three children.
Parenting Pages from California Consortium To Prevent Child Abuse
Excerpted with permission from the
National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse

How to Teach Your Children Discipline is published by the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, 332 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1600, Chicago, IL 60604, (312) 663-3520.

Why, When, and How to Spank Your Children
Q: Dear Benedicts, I have a question in regards to spanking. I have 2 sons, ages 6 and 8. Recently we decided to employ spanking as a disciplinary tool. When I spank them, sometimes after I am done they say to me that it didn't hurt! I use my hand and was wondering: Should I start using an implement or start spanking them on the bare bottom? I do want to be careful, especially in the times we live in now. Would you suggest some spanking guidelines on the mechanics of spanking? I know I have been rather late with my decision to use spanking, but I feel I still can try to discipline them with some kind of discipline. Any suggestions would be very helpful. Thanks and God Bless. TJ

A: Dear TJ; Is your interest now in the use of the rod the result of observing your children are displaying frequent defiance or a lack of respect towards you? Are you a single parent? It is very important that both parents (even in the case of divorce or separation) agree to a common approach and method of discipline. Consistency in discipline is critical to a child's sense of well being. Unless parents are in agreement about discipline and use the same standards children will be frustrated by the different approaches so even if parents are separated and share custody it is important that they talk about their standards for behavior.

I alter my advice to parents slightly, depending on their situation. In your case, a two parent family where both parents are working together as a team, you can have a discussion with the kids. You can tell the kids that Mom and Dad realize they have not been doing a good job of disciplining the children, and that God has helped you realize you need to enforce His standards more carefully. Let them know the rules have changed, but your love for them has not. Explain that in the future spankings will not be laughing matters, because sin and disobedience is a serious thing in God's eyes. Make changes gradually and most important, be consistent.

In this case, since your kids are older, you can come up with a list of punishable offenses which merit spanking and review the list together with your children. The list should include defiance, sassing, and disobedience. Children should not be spanked for simple forgetfulness, clumsy actions such as spilt milk, ect. Spanking should be used primarily as a remedy for defiance, direct disobedience, and bad attitude towards parental authority. I Recommend you get the book "What the Bible Teaches About Child Training," by Richard Fugate, and study it carefully to help plan and develop your discipline strategy. See Best Books For Parents for more information on parenting resources.

Hebrews 12:10-11 says, "For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." This scripture clearly shows that discipline should not be something to be laughed off. There is a practical reason for not using your hand to spank your children. By using a rod instead, you separate the discipline from the person of the giver.

The object of discipline is to change the child's attitude by giving them a foretaste of the potential terror and pain of eternal separation from God, which naturally result from rebellion and disobedience. My preference for utensils was to keep half a dozen wooden paint paddles (Free at the paint store) for our toddler sized children, for use on bare skin. If you are disciplining older children through clothing, you wil want to use a slender flexible rod several feet long, the traditional "switch." These are free and plentiful if you have trees close at hand. A switch should be no more than 1/4" thick so it will still sting. It must be flexible so it will not bruise or injure the child if it inadvertently comes into contact with the raised area of the spine, due to squirming or movement.

Avoid leaving welts, if only to avoid potential trouble with our confused, and often over-aggressive social authorities. It is really sad and unfortunate in this day of undisciplined children that the positive act of spanking is subject to be be misinterpreted, by the ignorant and misinformed, to be child abuse. It's a sad society that can't tell the difference between a legitimate act of discipline and real child abuse. This is the growing effect of Biblical illiteracy and of television and media coverage of the ideas of the small but outspoken spanking opponents. The media frequently interviews self-appointed social experts who have the hidden agenda of criminalizing spanking.

The Word of God says that the children who are genuinely unloved are those that go without discipline. Parents who care enough to insist that their children be obedient and and enforce their parental authority prepare for their children's future success and help them be effective, productive members of society. For a careful debunking of some of the phony information and statistics used by opponents of spanking see the book by Robert Surgenor, "No Fear: A Police Officers Perspective."
Follow Up Letters

Hi Mark,

Thanks for writing back. Yes, I have noticed with both of my sons a smart-alec response to doing what they are told and delaying what they are suppose to do. I have been given a lot of backtalk from our younger son. I am married and my wife also has problems with the children obeying her as well. We are both in agreement now as far as using spanking. I just need to be more consistent in applying discipline. I see now the importance of using the rod instead of my hand. I am planning on holding a family meeting to discuss these issues and how things are going to change.

I let my wife read the email message and she agrees with your comments. I read the book "Shepardizing Your Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp and decided I was growing slack in discipline. I will pick up the book you suggested by Richard Fugate, "What the Bible Teaches About Child Training," as well as a rod. What do you suggest for positioning of spanking? Since I will be using a rod, should I have them bend over my knee or their bed? Both sons don't know about me changing the rules in discipline. I have read most of the articles you have on spanking on your website. It is really a shame that other people can't see that the use of spanking can be used in a loving way. I don't mind at all if you want to use my questions for your Q&A Letters section.

Again, thanks for your advice and may God bless you and your whole family. TJ

Dear TJ,

I am glad that you and your wife are working together as a team. My wife and I used a slight variation on the highly ineffective practice of giving kids a count of three to obey spoken directions. We shortened it to a count of "one" and if they weren't already moving to follow our directions, we had them fetch the rod! God expects us to train our children to obey without delay!

To train our children for immediate obedience in our children we must first train ourselves not to habitually repeat our commands to our children. Parents should be consistent in giving directions only once, and then holding children responsible for their actions. Never threaten or nag your children, just tell them what to do and if they don't do it immediately, you should administer the punishment that you and your wife have already agreed is appropriate for that type of disobedience.

Often times when children are smart-mouthed they are reaching to find the boundary lines. Just firmly show where the boundary is, and be consistent. Parents can be strict, if they are equally diligent to love and praise their children. They thrive on discipline, as long as they know they are loved.

After the spanking, when a child has regained composure and stopped crying, it is important to reaffirm your love and affection and review the cause for discipline. Remind them that you discipline them because God requires it of you, not because you enjoy it. Some children may need a few minutes by themselves to regroup first. We insisted that our children cried softly and did not allow them to scream or make a scene when disciplined.

As to expressing affection, we never let our kids walk by without reaching out and hugging them, even now when they are young adults. Well disciplined children are rewarding, you will never be ashamed to introduce them to your friends and family.

In closing I would add that it is very important to have a clear idea of just what you expect to accomplish when you spank your children. This means that you should have a clear understanding of the Biblical underpinnings of parental authority, the why and how, and the desired result of your discipline. I can think of nothing more rewarding than the fact that we raised two children who love and honor God.

Not that they are perfect, nor that we never made mistakes, but they have grown up with a consciousness of God through our parenting, and are now walking under his influence. We trust him to finish what we started.

Our Warmest Regards In Him,
Mark and Sallie Benedict

Spanking is one of the most controversial discipline methods. On one side of the debate are parents who believe it is all right to spank their children. On the other side are those who think that children should never be spanked. Somewhere in the middle are parents who believe that spanking should only be used in particular instances (e.g., when the child runs into the street). Part of the reason for the debate is that parents and experts often define spanking differently. To some, spanking means "slapping a child on the buttocks" (Straus, 1995, p. 5), while others consider spanking a generic term for any corporal punishment that does not cause an injury, such as slapping a child's hand for touching something forbidden or dangerous.

The purpose of this digest is to explore some of the reasons for spanking (using the general definition of any corporal punishment that does not cause an injury), to examine the effectiveness of spanking, and to suggest alternative discipline methods.
Reasons For Spanking

While many adults would argue that hitting people is wrong, spanking children continues to be used as an acceptable form of discipline because many parents think spanking will teach children not to do things that are forbidden, stop them quickly when they are being irritating, and encourage them to do what they should (Leach, 1996). Some parents also believe that the nonphysical forms of discipline, like time-out, do not work (Samalin & Whitney, 1995). Spanking is also a practice used more in some areas of the country than others (primarily in the southern United States) and in some cultures more than others (Flynn, 1996; Scarr, 1995).
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Effectiveness Of Spanking

While spanking may relieve a parent's frustration and stop misbehavior briefly, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (1995), researchers suggest that spanking may be the least effective discipline method. To test this hypothesis, researchers surveyed parents, with the assumption that if spanking worked, children who were spanked would learn to behave better over time so that they would need punishing less frequently (Leach, 1996). However, the results showed that families who start spanking before their children are a year old are just as likely to spank their 4-year-old children as often as families who do not start spanking until later. Thus, children appear not to be learning the lessons parents are trying to teach by spanking.

Spanking may be ineffective because it does not teach an alternative behavior (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1995). In fact, children usually feel resentful, humiliated, and helpless after being spanked (Samalin & Whitney, 1995). The primary lesson they learn appears to be that they should try harder not to get caught.

Spanking also sends the wrong message to children (Samalin & Whitney, 1995). Spanking communicates that hitting is an acceptable way to solve problems, and that it is all right for a big person to strike a smaller one. In addition, when children are spanked, they may know that they have done something wrong, but in many cases, they are too young to understand the lesson. It is a very difficult message for any adult or child to understand: "I hurt you because I don't want you hurt."

Finally, when spanking is the primary discipline method used, it may have some potentially harmful long-term effects such as increasing the chances of misbehavior, aggression, violent or criminal behavior; impaired learning; and depression (Straus, 1995).
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Alternatives To Spanking
One reason parents spank is that they are not aware of other effective strategies for changing children's undesirable behavior. To be effective, discipline that is appropriate for a child's age should be used. Ineffective methods are often based on unrealistic expectations about what children are capable of learning. Parents may find the following age-appropriate discipline suggestions useful alternatives to spanking.
Suggestions For Parents Of Infants

Infants respond impulsively to many situations without a real understanding of their surroundings and abilities. Spanking will only cause fear and anxiety in children who do not yet understand such concepts as consequences and danger.

1. When there is danger, grasp an infant's hand instead of slapping (Leach, 1996).

2. When the infant is holding something that you do not want him to have, trade a toy instead of forcing the item from him (Leach, 1996). He will only hold on tighter if you try to take something away.

3. Baby-proof your living space so that there is nothing dangerous or breakable in reach (Ruben, 1996; Samalin & Whitney, 1995).

4. Leave the room if you feel your temper flaring, making sure that the baby is in a safe place like a playpen (Leach, 1996).

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Suggestions For Parents Of Toddlers

Disciplining toddlers requires a tremendous investment of time, energy, and patience, so it is important to find effective and appropriate techniques (Ruben, 1996). For example, it will not be effective to tell toddlers not to play with items that are dangerous, such as the stove, because they do not understand the consequences (Samalin & Whitney, 1995). Spanking, however, will not clarify the consequences either. Instead, children may learn from spanking that "I'm a bad person," rather than "I did a bad thing." You must use discipline methods consistently or your child will learn that you are not serious.

1. Make sure the environment is safe by removing any harmful dangerous objects (Samalin & Whitney, 1995). It is natural for toddlers to want to explore their environment. Always supervise toddlers; it is unrealistic to expect a toddler to play safely without adult supervision for more than a few minutes (Leach, 1996).

2. Avoid direct clashes with toddlers, which will only make both of you angry and frustrated. Instead, try a diversion or distraction (Leach, 1996). Many problem situations can be eased with something funny or unexpected, such as tickling a mildly upset child (Ruben, 1996).

3. Use your size and strength to eliminate situations (Leach, 1996). Simply lift a child out of the bath or carry a child who refuses to walk.

4. If you start to deliver a slap, divert it to your knee or a table (Leach, 1996). This sound will interrupt the behavior without hitting the child.

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Suggestions For Parents Of Older Children

1. When you start to feel angry with your children, clap your hands loudly (Leach, 1996). The sound will interrupt their behavior.

2. If your child refuses to listen to you, crouch down to his level, grasp his arms firmly so he cannot avoid looking at you, and then talk calmly (Leach, 1996).

3. Since spanking does not occur in calm, rational moments (Samalin & Whitney, 1995), it is especially important to control your anger to prevent "losing it." You can walk away, hit a pillow, call a friend, or write a note. Once you have cooled down, you will probably feel less inclined to spank.

4. If you feel you must punish your children, make sure the punishment is logically related to the incident so that they can learn the lesson you want to teach (Leach, 1996). For example, if your child rides her bike onto a road that is forbidden, take the bike away for the afternoon. This punishment teaches her that roads can be dangerous, that you are concerned for her safety, and that you will enforce safety rules as long as they are needed. Taking away TV, dessert, or spanking will not teach bike safety.

5. Introduce the appropriate use of time-out (Ruben, 1996). Time-out used as a punishment is controversial. When used to allow a few minutes for a child--and a parent--to regain control of their emotions, it can be effective in stopping a cycle of inappropriate behavior.

Suggestions For All Ages

1. Support good behavior. Hugs and praise will go a long way (Ruben, 1996).
2. Try an ounce of prevention (Ruben, 1996). Effective discipline means announcing clear, simple family rules (the fewer, the better) at a time when children are calm and listening.
3. Try to understand the feelings behind your child's actions (Ruben, 1996). Ask older children why they are angry. When an infant cries, ask yourself: Does she want to be held? Is her diaper wet? Is she hungry?
4. Share your change of heart (Ruben, 1996). If you have spanked your children in the past, but have decided that you will stop, talk to your children about your decision. This lesson can be valuable for your whole family.

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The question of whether or not parents should spank their children is not easy to answer. However, spanking is only one of the factors that needs to be considered in the overall discipline process. In deciding how to discipline their children, parents should first ask, "what do I want to accomplish?" If the answer is "teach my children how to make good choices on their own," spanking may not be an issue.
For More Information

American Academy of Pediatrics. (1995). CARING FOR YOUR SCHOOL-AGE CHILD: AGES 5-12. New York: Bantam Books.

Flynn, Clifton. (1996). Regional differences in spanking experiences and attitudes: A comparison of northeastern and southern college students. JOURNAL OF FAMILY VIOLENCE, 11 (1), 59-80. EJ 523 518.

Leach, Penelope. (1996, July 9). SPANKING: A SHORTCUT TO NOWHERE WWW document. URL^cruelty/spank.htm

NoSpan King Page. URL

Ruben, David. (1996, September). Should you spank? PARENTING, 136-141.

Samalin, Nancy, & Whitney, Catherine. (1995, May). What's wrong with spanking? PARENTS, 70 (5), 35-36.

Scarr, Sandra. (1995, February 8). SOUTHERN PARENTS SPANK CHILDREN MORE THAN NORTHERN PARENTS, STUDY FINDS. WWW document. URL gopher://minerva.acc.Virginia.EDU:70/00/news/prour/Feb1995/spanking

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ED405139 Mar 97 The Debate over Spanking. ERIC Digest.
Author: Ramsburg, Dawn


This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. RR93002007. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI.

You are here: Parenting >> Learn More About Christian Parenting! >> Spanking As A Discipline For Children

How effective is spanking as discipline for children?

A more definitive question would be: "How should spanking be used as discipline for children?" When clearly defined guidelines are practiced, spanking is both effective and biblical. It is possible to be too strict. For that reason, parents need to establish a balance between two requirements: consistency in enforcing good behavior, while obeying God's command that we love our children. "Don't fail to correct your children. They won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death" (Proverbs 23:13-14, NLT). Spanking is an act of parental love established to change a child's behavior.

Children respond to the world differently from an adult. A child develops within boundaries that need to be filled with parental love. It is important that children learn the consequences of crossing those boundaries when they rebel or disregard authority. As adults, we realize that the purpose of a speeding ticket is to get our attention and to restrain our behavior. Children learn that the reason for their discipline is to get their attention and to change their behavior.

How effective is spanking as a discipline for children when parents are angry? The purpose of spanking is not for parents to express their anxiety or frustration. Anger places destructive fear into discipline. ". . .Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19-20). Spanking is never used to humiliate a child. One parent made a habit of spanking their sons in front of the other brothers. The intent was to illustrate the consequences of disobedience. The results proved ineffective and even caused ridicule and disrespect among the brothers.

Parents who discipline effectively spank on a basis of clearly defined rules, not on their feelings at that particular moment. They spank for acts of disobedience, defiance, and rebellion. Just like a police officer, they do not need to be angry to enforce a rule or law. Effective parenting is accomplished when God's moral laws are enforced. "Discipline your children while there is hope. If you don't you will ruin their lives" (Proverbs 19:18, NLT).

How effective is spanking as discipline for children when biblical principles are followed? Spanking is effective as a method of correction when it follows God's Word and also focuses on instruction beyond punishment. Wouldn't it be terrible if God changed His rules daily? Fortunately, God is not vague concerning punishment and sin. Children need clear explanation of the wrong behavior, the reason for the punishment, and your expectations for their future behavior. Focus on positive behavior rather than directing negative attitudes toward children. It helps parents to respond appropriately when the right questions are asked:

* What was wrong about my child's behavior?
* Was the behavior dangerous or sinful? Or was the behavior just a childish, natural response that was inconvenient to me?
* What motivated my child's behavior?
* What is the best method to correct this specific behavior so that I can encourage more positive actions in the future?

How effective is spanking as discipline for children? The Scriptures do not give parents permission or a command to yell at or hit a child. Hitting is an uncontrolled emotional response. Spanking is a calm application of discipline that is appropriate to a specific behavior. Often parents will ask, "How many times do I have to tell you that?" If simply telling a child made them obey, we wouldn't have to repeat ourselves so many times. Spanking is only one tool in disciplining children. Always think beyond the spanking to the goal of long-lasting results of godly obedience. "Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do" (Ephesians 6:1, NLT).

How do you keep a 1-year-old from heading toward the VCR? What should you do when your preschooler throws a fit? How can you get a teenager to respect your authority?

Whatever the age of your child, it's important to be consistent when it comes to discipline. If you don't stick to the rules and consequences that you set up, your child isn't likely to either.

Here are some ideas about how to vary your approach to discipline to best fit your family.
Ages 0 to 2

Babies and toddlers are naturally curious. So it's wise to eliminate temptations and no-nos — items such as VCRs, stereos, jewelry, and especially cleaning supplies and medications should be kept well out of reach. When your crawling baby or roving toddler heads toward an unacceptable or dangerous play object, calmly say "No" and either remove your child from the area or distract him or her with an appropriate activity.

Timeouts can be effective discipline for toddlers. A child who has been hitting, biting, or throwing food, for example, should be told why that behavior is unacceptable and taken to a designated timeout area — a kitchen chair or bottom stair — for a minute or two to calm down (longer timeouts are not effective for toddlers).

It's important to not spank, hit, or slap a child of any age. Babies and toddlers are especially unlikely to be able to make any connection between their behavior and physical punishment. They will only feel the pain of the hit.

And don't forget that kids learn by watching adults, particularly their parents. Make sure your behavior is role-model material. You'll make a much stronger impression by putting your own belongings away rather than just issuing orders to your child to pick up toys while your stuff is left strewn around.
Ages 3 to 5

As your child grows and begins to understand the connection between actions and consequences, make sure you start communicating the rules of your family's home. Explain to kids what you expect of them before you punish them for a certain behavior. For instance, the first time your 3-year-old uses crayons to decorate the living room wall, discuss why that's not allowed and what will happen if your child does it again (for instance, your child will have to help clean the wall and will not be able to use the crayons for the rest of the day). If the wall gets decorated again a few days later, issue a reminder that crayons are for paper only and then enforce the consequences.

The earlier that parents establish this kind of "I set the rules and you're expected to listen or accept the consequences" standard, the better for everyone. Although it's sometimes easier for parents to ignore occasional bad behavior or not follow through on some threatened punishment, this sets a bad precedent. Consistency is the key to effective discipline, and it's important for parents to decide together what the rules are and then uphold them.

While you become clear on what behaviors will be punished, don't forget to reward good behaviors. Don't underestimate the positive effect that your praise can have — discipline is not just about punishment but also about recognizing good behavior. For example, saying "I'm proud of you for sharing your toys at playgroup" is usually more effective than punishing a child for the opposite behavior — not sharing. And be specific when doling out praise; don't just say, "Good job!"

If your child continues an unacceptable behavior no matter what you do, try making a chart with a box for each day of the week. Decide how many times your child misbehave before some punishment kicks in or how long the proper behavior must be displayed before it is rewarded. Post the chart on the refrigerator and then track the good and bad behaviors every day. This will give your child (and you) a concrete look at how it's going. Once this begins to work, praise your child for learning to control misbehavior and, especially, for overcoming any stubborn problem.

Timeouts also can work well for kids at this age. Establish a suitable timeout place that's free of distractions and will force your child to think about how he or she has behaved. Remember, getting sent to your room may have meant something in the days before computers, TVs, and video games were stored there. Don't forget to consider the length of time that will best suit your child. Experts say 1 minute for each year of age is a good rule of thumb; others recommend using the timeout until the child is calmed down (to teach self-regulation).

It's important to tell kids what the right thing to do is, not just to say what the wrong thing is. For example, instead of saying "Don't jump on the couch," try "Please sit on the furniture and put your feet on the floor."
Ages 6 to 8

Timeouts and consequences are also effective discipline strategies for this age group.

Again, consistency is crucial, as is follow-through. Make good on any promises of discipline or else you risk undermining your authority. Kids have to believe that you mean what you say. This is not to say you can't give second chances or allow a certain margin of error, but for the most part, you should act on what you say.

Be careful not to make unrealistic threats of punishment ("Slam that door and you'll never watch TV again!") in anger, since not following through could weaken all your threats. If you threaten to turn the car around and go home if the squabbling in the backseat doesn't stop, make sure you do exactly that. The credibility you'll gain with your kids is much more valuable than a lost beach day.

Huge punishments may take away your power as a parent. If you ground your son or daughter for a month, your child may not feel motivated to change behaviors because everything has already been taken away.
Ages 9 to 12

Kids in this age group — just as with all ages — can be disciplined with natural consequences. As they mature and request more independence and responsibility, teaching them to deal with the consequences of their behavior is an effective and appropriate method of discipline.

For example, if your fifth grader's homework isn't done homework before bedtime, should you make him or her stay up to do it or even lend a hand yourself? Probably not — you'll miss an opportunity to teach a key life lesson. If homework is incomplete, your child will go to school the next day without it and suffer the resulting bad grade.

It's natural for parents to want to rescue kids from mistakes, but in the long run they do kids a favor by letting them fail sometimes. Kids see what behaving improperly can mean, and will probably not make those mistakes again. However, if your child does not seem to be learning from natural consequences, you should set up your own consequences to help modify the behavior more effectively.
Ages 13 and Up

By now you've laid the groundwork. Your child knows what's expected and that you mean what you say about the consequences of bad behavior. Don't let down your guard now — discipline is just as important for teens as it is for younger children. Just like the 4-year-old who needs you to set a bedtime and stick to it, your teen needs to know boundaries, too.

Set up rules regarding homework, visits by friends, curfews, and dating and discuss them beforehand with your teenager so there will be no misunderstandings. Your teen will probably complain from time to time, but also will realize that you're in control. Believe it or not, teens still want and need you to set limits and enforce order in their lives, even as you grant them greater freedom and responsibility.

When your teen does break a rule, taking away privileges may seem the best plan of action. While it's fine to take away the car for a week, for example, be sure to also discuss why coming home an hour past curfew is unacceptable and worrisome.

Remember to give a teenager some control over things. Not only will this limit the number of power struggles you have, it will help your teen respect the decisions that you do need to make for him or her. You could allow a younger teen to make decisions concerning school clothes, hair styles, or even the condition of his or her room. As your teen gets older, that realm of control might be extended to include an occasional relaxed curfew.

It's also important to focus on the positives. For example, have your teen earn a later curfew by demonstrating positive behavior instead of setting an earlier curfew as punishment for irresponsible behavior.
A Word About Spanking

Perhaps no form of discipline is more controversial than spanking. Here are some reasons why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages spanking:

* Spanking teaches kids that it's OK to hit when they're angry.
* Spanking can physically harm children.
* Rather than teaching kids how to change their behavior, spanking makes them fearful of their parents and merely teaches them to avoid getting caught.
* For kids seeking attention by acting out, spanking may inadvertently "reward" them — negative attention is better than no attention at all.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Shroff Pendley, PhD
Date reviewed: June 2005
Originally reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD, and Jennifer Shroff Pendley, PhD

Controversy about the Use of Physical Discipline

Although almost everyone seems to have been spanked while growing up, there continues to be a heated controversy about the efficacy and wisdom of spanking children. Most people, including some child development experts, seem to believe that limited, nonabusive, physical punishment is not harmful to children and is often necessary to teach children respect and obedience. On the other hand, many child development experts and some people are convinced that even moderate amounts of corporal punishment can be harmful to a child and consequently should be avoided at all costs. After decades of discussion in a variety of settings, about the only thing that is certain is that almost everyone seems to hold a strong opinion on whether or not children should be spanked.

In the first half of the twentieth century, most parents in the United States demanded complete obedience on the part of their children and usually followed the adage "spare the rod and spoil the child." As a result, there was little discussion about whether or not it was in the best interest of their children to spank them or use the hickory switch if they misbehaved. Further, corporal punishment was practiced in many public schools in the United States well into the second half of the twentieth century, usually with the blessing of the parents.

However, from mid-century on, experts like Benjamin Spock (1946), Thomas Gordon (1970), T. Berry Brazelton (1969), and others began to speak against the harsh discipline of earlier times and suggested that children were individuals who needed to be treated with rights equal to all other members of the family. Instead of seeing the parent-child relationship as a benevolent dictatorship, they suggested the relationship should be viewed as a democracy. They taught that parents ought to consider their children as friends and treat them as they would their spouse.

These influential opinions, together with several significant social changes in the United States such as increases in violence, child abuse, and divorce, led to a reexamination of the use of physical punishment in schools and in homes during the last quarter of the twentieth century. Some experts have repeatedly claimed that the research on spanking clearly shows that even mild corporal punishment leads to a number of negative outcomes in those who have been spanked. As a result of their efforts, corporal punishment has been banned in virtually all schools, and some states have even considered legislation banning parents from hitting their children in the home. Many other countries around the world seem to be following trends similar to those in the United States. In addition, many other countries have been experiencing some change in views about physical punishment of children.

Since the 1970s, the academic community generally has interpreted the research as saying that corporal punishment in schools or homes is detrimental and should be abolished. Murray A. Straus, author of Beating the Devil Out of Them (2000), and Irwin A. Hyman, author of The Case Against Spanking (1997), are two of the key proponents in the movement to abolish spanking in schools and homes in the United States. They believe that corporal punishment is a significant psychological and social problem. Straus claims that there are over eighty different studies dating to the 1950s which link corporal punishment in children to later behavioral problems such as increased violence, aggression, noncompliance, delinquency, antisocial behavior, sexual hang-ups, and depression. He also claims that the research shows that alternative discipline strategies work just as well as corporal punishment and therefore corporal punishment serves no real purpose. Hyman spends much of his time speaking with state legislators and policy-makers as he attempts to persuade people that other types of discipline are as effective as spanking and therefore hitting children is never right.

In examining the causal link between corporal punishment and negative outcomes, Straus recognizes that earlier studies did have a serious limitation—they were correlational in nature and therefore did not show which is the cause and which is the effect. Accordingly, one could argue that children are spanked because of behavior problems or that they have behavior problems because they were spanked. However, Straus believes that five studies done between 1997 and 1999 have overcome the flaws of the previous studies and confirmed the findings of the previous eighty studies: that corporal punishment has long-term negative effects on children. Because these studies were based on large and nationally representative samples of U.S. children and were longitudinal in nature, he believes they allow for causal conclusions regarding the link between physical punishment and the negative behavior of children. All of this evidence leads Straus to conclude that all corporal punishment ought to be considered abuse and ought to be against the law.

In contrast to Straus and Hyman, Diana Baumrind (1994, 1996a) believes that the evidence seems to indicate that mild, nonabusive, physical punishment is not harmful when used occasionally, in a loving relationship, and in conjunction with other methods of discipline, most notably with reasoning. She claims that the critical issue is the relationship between the parent and the child. If the child feels as if he or she is in a loving, trusting relationship with his or her parents, then the child usually understands that discipline, and even spanking, is for the good of the child. When this occurs, Baumrind and others claim, there are no long-term negative effects.

Robert Larzelere, along with some of his colleagues (1998), also suggests that spanking is not all bad. In fact, they found that spanking used in conjunction with reasoning was the most effective type of discipline in some situations. Larzelere, like most experts who believe spanking is not always detrimental, believes certain guidelines must be kept in mind if parents choose to use corporal punishment. First, physical discipline should be limited to a couple of slaps applied by the open hand to the buttocks or legs. Second, it should only be used on children between the ages of two and six when other disciplinary methods may not be as effective. Third, it should only be used to back up less aversive disciplinary techniques and as a supplement to positive parenting. Finally, spanking should not be done while the parent is angry because it could escalate to abuse.