PARENTING: Guide to Positive Discipline

PARENTING: Guide to Positive Discipline

by Parenting Magazine Editors

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A guide to discipline grounded in love and respect.

Savvy parents have come to rely on PARENTING magazine for its focused advice and expert guidance on all the tough issues of raising children.  Now PARENTING readers are delighted to find the same winning blend of upbeat writing, quick information, and up-to-the-minute research in the PARENTING books.  This latest volume in the series takes parents through the ins and outs of raising children with healthy, loving discipline, from infancy to age 6 and beyond.  Featured topics include:

Discipline and punishment: Knowing the difference  ¸  Defining realistic, age-appropriate goals for your child  ¸  Why cooperation works better than coercion

Why kids misbehave: Heading off bad behavior by understanding its underlying causes  ¸  How to be a guide rather than a cop  ¸  Rechanneling all that energy

Avoiding common pitfalls and mistakes: Side-stepping power struggles and defiance  ¸  Making rules your children can understand and obey  ¸  Creating win-win situations through patience and consistency  ¸  Using positive reinforcement instead of criticism and control

Discipline through ages and stages: Expectations your children can meet from infancy to elementary school  ¸  Dealing with sibling rivalry  ¸  Working with a babysitter or day care provider  ¸  Dialogues, routines, and strategies geared for each phase of childhood

Raising responsible children: Chores your child is ready for  ¸  Using rewards fairly and effectively  ¸  Getting compliance without nagging or policing

How NOT to spoil your children: The difference between nurturing and overindulging  ¸  Giving gifts without creating undue expectations ¸  When and how to set limits  ¸  Setting the right example

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345544414
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/27/2013
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 144
File size: 3 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One - Why All Kids Need It

What happens when you think about the word discipline? Do you feel your muscles tighten at the memory of last night’s power struggle with your preschooler? Let loose an involuntary, exhausted sigh? Worry that you’re too soft or too tough? Do you aim to be just like your own parents—or exactly the opposite? Do you feel pretty good about the way you handle the day-to-day challenges, but wonder, in the back of your mind, how everything’s going to turn out in ten or twenty years?

Whatever your mind-set, you’ve probably given the subject of discipline plenty of thought. That’s because it takes up a good deal of most parents time.

Whether your child is a baby, a toddler, a preschooler or a kindergartener, how you discipline helps shape his or her life.

Laying the Groundwork Now

Discipline is a loaded subject for most parents. Few of us would pick it as the most enjoyable aspect of parenthood. In fact, it’s usually more of a chore than a pleasure. Yet few aspects of child rearing are as important in determining what sort of person your child will grow up to be.

Unfortunately the very notion of child discipline suffers from an identity crisis. It’s not as onerous a responsibility as it may sound. Ask a dozen parents how they do it, and you’ll hear a dozen variations, with answers like, “We use time-outs.” “I guess I yell a lot.” Or, “We take away privileges.” It’s true that when we do those things we are disciplining a child. But they are merely disciplinary tactics. Discipline has come to be a sort of shorthand for punishment. And punishment is only one dimension of the big picture called discipline.

Punishment is a way to control your child. Discipline is a way to teach your child self-control.

Developing your child’s self-discipline is the ultimate goal. It’s a skill that your child can use her entire life. Self-control will make your child a more pleasant person to be around. Self-discipline is also what will get your child through the tumultuous teenage years, where she may step over the line at times, but be held in check by what she’s learned early on.

The specific ways you discipline your child will vary as he grows. The advice in this book is tailored for infancy through children six years of age. These are the years when you lay the foundation for healthy discipline.

Ideally, discipline hinges more on cooperation than control. It’s the values you instill, the social manners you convey, the way you treat your child, and how you teach him to treat other people and the world around him. Discipline is the way you teach him to be in the world.

definition Discipline

Instruction; a subject that is taught; an orderly or prescribed conduct of behavior. To discipline a child is to teach him how to be well behaved; show him right from wrong; build his self-confidence and his respect for others; and teach him the self-control and self-discipline that can help him grow into the sort of person you want him to be.

In other words, discipline is not something done apart from the rest of child rearing. It is child rearing.

Punishment, on the other hand, requires a negative trigger—the child behaves badly, therefore you respond with punishment. Discipline requires positive triggers—you want your child to behave well, therefore everything you do feeds that goal. Consider the two boxed definitions.

Children aren’t born knowing the right way to behave. They need to learn everything—right from wrong, how to get along with others, which behaviors will get them what they want. They are as much in need of social and emotional guidance as they are in need of someone to fill their stomachs and wipe their bottoms. Your job is to show your child which behaviors are appropriate and which are not, and how to choose the right ones for himself.

definition Punishment A penalty imposed on an offender for a fault, offense, or violation. To punish a child is to react to his poor behavior in a punitive way.

Learning all this takes time—lots of time. Discipline isn’t something that a parent can focus on a few hours a day or week, like taking a child to piano lessons. Nor is it a ten-step program to be mastered in a few easy lessons. Unfortunately, you can’t even do it well in the early years and then let it slide once your child has the basics down pat. (Although, if you’re persistent in the first five or six years, you’re apt to be rewarded with smoother progress later.) Modifying anyone’s behavior is a gradual process born of trial and error. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back.

Discipline requires endless practice, endless perseverance, and endless patience. As long as your child is under your wing, you’ll be disciplining him or her.

The Goals of Healthy Discipline

What sort of child does every parent want? A good child, of course! Good is a subjective term, though. To some families, a good child is one who cleans his plate and goes to bed without kicking up a fuss. Elsewhere, a good child is one who simply manages to get through adolescence without a visit to juvenile court. The word good also implies an unsavory flip side: If there are good children, then there must also be bad children.

Yet lots of the behavior we think of as “bad” are perfectly normal. Tired toddlers tend to be cranky and negative. A four-year-old with a growing vocabulary and a vivid imagination spins amazing tall tales that, while technically are lies, are not intentionally hurtful. It’s only when misbehavior goes unchecked that it tends to spiral out of control and become part of a child’s personality, creating a bad situation.


Rethinking Discipline

Discipline Isn’t . . . 4 something you do to your child 4 a response to a problem 4 just one thing 4 about controlling 4 just for older kids 4 an option Discipline Is . . . 4 something that you do with your child 4 a way of life 4 many things 4 about teaching self-control 4 something that begins in infancy 4 an essential aspect of child rearing

Semantics aside, we all know a well-behaved child when we see one. Not a perfect child, who never makes a fuss or a mess—perfect children don’t exist in the real world. A well-behaved child is one whose across-the-board behavior is generally good.

What does well-behaved mean to you? Ask yourself what personal qualities are important to you. What sort of person do you want your child to be when she is ten? Eighteen? Thirty-five? The list of potential adjectives you might string together is endless. Some traits (such as temperament) are inherited. But many others are shaped by the child’s world. The way you discipline your child is one of the most potent behavior-shapers you have.

It starts with accentuating the positives, the goals that you are working toward.

The aim of healthy discipline should be to guide a child to become:

•Respectful. A child who understands the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

•Responsible. A child who can be trusted to do the right thing—which of course implies that he also knows the difference between right and wrong.

•Unspoiled. A child who is nurtured, loved, and given what he needs to grow—without being overindulged.

•Obedient. A child who understands the rules and knows how to abide by them.

•Well-mannered. A child who practices the social niceties, from saying “please” to helping someone in trouble.

•Self-assured. A child who feels secure and self-confident, with a healthy sense of herself and her self-worth.

•Considerate. A child who is sensitive to the feelings and concerns of others.

•Honest. A child who tells the truth.

•Happy. A child who enjoys life and is eager to explore, learn, and grow.

•Pleasant to be around. A child whom you not only love, but also like.

Feel free to embellish upon this list, which is by no means exhaustive. It’s worth adding other qualities that you value and wish to impart.

Why Kids Misbehave

No matter how diligent you are, sooner or later the little apple of your eye will defy you. And it will happen sooner rather than later. She will sass back, squeeze all of the toothpaste out of the tube, scream at the top of her lungs in the middle of the grocery store, hit her baby brother. All children misbehave. A child who behaves perfectly all the time and has done so for his entire life exists only in the imagination (or on Nick at Nite reruns!). Kids need to test you—it’s in their very makeup to act up occasionally.

Why is a certain amount of misbehavior to be expected? Here are some of the reasons that kids act up:

•Kids misbehave in order to learn. To help them understand what behavior is acceptable, children need to define what’s unacceptable. It’s not enough for them to hear the rules as issued by their parents. They also have to test those rules for themselves and push the limits in order to determine what really is okay and what isn’t. It’s also you who’s being tested: If I do this, what will Mom or Dad do?

•Kids misbehave to get attention. Above all, a child wants her parents affection and approval. The desire to please is a deep motivator. A child will do what the parent wants (that is, behave well) in order to gain attention. But negative attention is as valuable to a child as positive attention. If he doesn’t sense your focus and approval when he’s acting nicely, he’ll settle for the shouting or fuss he can conjure up by being naughty. At least when a child is being punished, he’s certain that he has his parents undivided concentration. Sibling rivalry is another form of competitive misbehavior in the quest for parents’ love—to get more love than the other sibling receives, as if that could be measured.

•Kids misbehave to exert their individuality. This is especially true of toddlers and young preschoolers, who have begun to realize that they are people in their own right, distinct from Mom and Dad. They say “yes” when you say “no” or “stop” when you say “go.” And they do so just because. They are exploring their powers and sorting out what they are capable of.

•Kids misbehave because they want reassurance that you’re in charge. Despite their occasional bravado and ever-increasing size, kids are kids. You are big and they are small. Just as your child looks to you for sustenance and love, he depends on you to keep him safe in the world. Talking back and seeing that you won’t come unglued is strangely comforting. It reassures your child that all is right in the natural order of things. Of course, he’s not sophisticated enough to see it exactly this way, but that’s what he’s feeling in his bones.

•Kids misbehave because their development and their parents’ expectations are out of sync. A two-year-old is not physically capable of sitting quietly through a five-course meal. So he fidgets, whines, or begins tossing forks or knocking over water glasses. It’s misbehavior by an adult’s standards (or by standards appropriate for an eight-year-old), but for a toddler such actions are merely a way to channel natural energy and curiosity. No, sending forks flying isn’t acceptable. But by the same token, sitting still for two hours is not developmentally within a toddler’s repertoire.

•Kids misbehave when they can’t think how else to act. Sometimes a child is simply not yet equipped with the social or language skills to more gracefully navigate a situation. A toddler may have a tantrum because she can’t quickly string together the words to convey her feelings. A preschooler who feels his space being invaded by a bigger, stronger child lashes out to defend himself in the first way that comes to mind—with his teeth. Such instances aren’t willful disobedience; they’re reactions to a specific situation.

•Kids misbehave when they are tired, sick, or hungry. It’s no coincidence that whining revs up when naptime is overdue. Or that a child loses it in the grocery store, surrounded by so many delicious temptations, as his lunch hour approaches. It’s difficult for anyone to have his act together completely when he’s not functioning at 100 percent. Why should your child be any different?

•Kids misbehave because they haven’t been taught any better. It’s only natural: Children persist in using behavior that goes uncorrected. They’re also more apt to continue undesirable behavior if they are sometimes corrected but sometimes ignored. It’s like playing the lottery: If whining worked yesterday, though not the day before, why not try it again just in case it will get me what I want today?

These explanations don’t excuse bad behavior. But they provide useful perspective. Understanding the “why” goes a long way toward reducing your frustration and developing your patience—important tools to help you guide your child in a better direction.

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Parenting Guide to Positive Discipline 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's like reading a textbook with little or useless practical examples. There's too much definition and too little examples illustrated. I'm pretty disappointed with this book after I read it.