Discipline Tips

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How can I reinforce good behaviors?

Look for the Good

Children respond more readily to positive reinforcement, so instead of punishing for misbehavior, try to focus on positive behaviors as they are happening. It greatly increases the likelihood of the behavior repeating itself, and it increases positive feelings between yourself and your child.

How can I increase my child´s responsibilities?

Increasing Responsibilities

To give kids a chance to earn extra money, and increase their responsibilities around the home, try posting a "Help Wanted" sign detailing various jobs and the pay for each job. For example, water the plants - 50 cents. This also helps build self-confidence and teach the importance of hard work.

How do I teach responsibility and reinforce positive behavior?

The When/Then Rule

To help teach your children responsibility and positive reinforcement for their actions, establish the when/then rule in your family. For example, if your child really wants to play with a friend, and her room is a mess, you tell her "WHEN your room is clean, THEN you can play with your friends". You can apply this rule to any area of your child's life, and it will teach them responsibility. It also keeps the parent from sounding negative due to always saying NO.

How can I reinforce good behaviors?

Be Positive!

Instead of telling your kids what not to do, try telling them what they should do. Negative messages such as "don't" and "no" tend to break down self-esteem. Try to ask your child to "Please do" instead. Don't forget YOUR manners!

How can I teach my child to respect other people?


Children should be able to respect their parents' authority and also the rights of other people. Discipline that is harsh - name calling, shouting and humiliating - will make it difficult for a child to respect and trust a mother or father.

How can I deal with my own anger?

Time Outs for Parents

It is important for children to see how their parents deal with their own emotions. If a situation has caused anger in a parent, it is important to cool down before disciplining, rather than acting out in that anger. Simply tell the child that "Mommy needs a time-out and we will talk about what happened in two minutes".

How can I stop shopping temper tantrums?

A Creative Way to End the Gimmes

When my child asks for things in the store that she would like, I ask her to draw a picture of the item when we get home. We then put it in her wish folder for possible birthday and Christmas presents. This has proven to be an effective way to end in-store temper tantrums.

How can I help my child feel good about herself/himself?

Praise the Kindness

Praise your child's random acts of kindness. Noticing and praising your child's kind gestures is one important way to help her establish a core identity, a sense of herself as a person who feels good when she's good to others. It also teaches her not to take others' kindnesses for granted.

How can I speed up clean up time?

Clean Up Monster

If your kids tend to dawdle at clean up time, here is a handy trick. Use a large sack and draw a mean face on it. If your kids refuse to clean up, pull out the "toy-eating" sack and put stray toys in it. Tell your kids that once the sack has eaten a toy, it doesn't come back out for 2 days. This should help speed up the cleaning process, since your kids will not want their toys to be eaten.

How can I teach my child table manners?

Tea for Two

To help your child practice table manners, try having regular tea parties. Sit at a child-sized table and serve juice and cookies. Serve refreshments only to those who remember to say "please" and "thank you" and who ask to be excused when necessary. Since teatime is a lot less hectic than dinnertime, it is a great time to teach table manners!

How do I set and maintain boundaries for my child?

Children Need Boundaries

Children thrive on routine and boundaries. Unlike adults, kids aren't flexible and they think very concretely so when things are changed around or completely, kids can freak out. Although, there are events that can't be changed (i.e. weather changes so you can't go out to playdates), it's important to stay consistent and follow through.

Don't tell a child one thing and do another. Don't give a child three warnings on Monday morning and six on MOnday afternoon, then twelve on Tuesday.

Parenting is difficult, complicated and always in a state of adjustment and learning. There aren't enough parenting books or seminars or friends/family to give you all the answers for every situation, but if you stay consistent and follow through, life can be easier.

Here's an example: Let's say Johnnie wants to go to the park. You're grateful for getting out of the house because it's been a long winter. So both of you are enjoying the nice day when you get to the swingset area, Johnnie decides he wants to play in the sand around it. You get to talk to other mommies and enjoy your coffee when Johnnie decides to throw sand in another kid's face. You give him one warning, help the other child (deal with the parent who might be screaming at you), and tell him if he does it again, you're leaving.

So within five minutes, he does it again, so do you:

(A) LEAVE right then and there, regardless where you want to stay or not

(B) Give him a choice of leaving because you don't want to have him make a scene in front of everyone

(C) Give him another warning and see if he listens that time

If you didn't answer "A", you might want to ask yourself why. You leave immediately, no matter if YOU want to or not. Who cares what other parents think. They are going to be angry at you if you keep allowing your child to throw sand at their kids, especially when corneal abrasions (sand can cause scratches on the surface of the clear part of the eye/cornea) are horribly painful and their child can end up in the ER.

The thing is you've already given him a warning, now if you don't follow through, you've lost his respect and he's going to keep pushing boundaries until he figures out where they are.

That his job and your job is to set up and defend the boundaries, even if it means going to full on war and he's in time out for the rest of the day.

It's not to say the rest of the day won't be miserable because now you're all at home and he's screaming and upset and you both really needed to get out of the house, but know that if you're consistent, next time you both might get to stay a lot longer at the park.

Be strong parents! It's a hard job, but be strong and know we're all in this confusing journey together. Somedays will be better than others, but despite our parents best efforts, most of us get to be adults.

(I know this may sound simple to those with tween and teenagers--that's a whole other realm of parenting.)

How do I teach my child to think of other people´s feelings?

Encouraging Good Deeds

On your next quiet or rainy afternoon when you are looking for an activity to do with your child, help her make a card for a favorite babysitter, day-care worker or teacher's helper. Help him to make bright colorful pictures and add a message that is sure to brighten the person's day. Help him sign his name and be sure to tell him why you are doing this - to help make another person feel good.

How can I encourage responsibility in my child?

Choices Encourage Responsibility

Offer your child several choices throughout the day to encourage responsibility and maturity. Simple choices such as "Would you like the red shirt or the green shirt today?", can give a child a surge of self-importance and responsibility in their day-to-day life.

How do I calm down my child during a tantrum?

Tantrum Tamer

When your child is in the middle of a tantrum, calmly move him in front of a full length mirror to show him what he looks like during a tantrum. He will likely be very surprised, and may stop the tantrum, and even laugh at himself. Once he is calm, you can deal with the consequences of the tantrum.

How do I deal with a screaming child?


Stop arguing with a screaming child. Instead, try changing your location. The key is to distract your child or yourself.

How do I deal with a screaming child?

Dealing with Crying

When your child is crying, do not take it personally, and avoid letting it get you angry. Try to calm your child, since you will be unable to discuss it when she is still crying. Once she is calm, then you can discuss the situation.

How can I teach my kids the importance of sharing?

Keep the Spirit of Giving Alive

To help your kids focus on the importance of sharing with others throughout the year, have children use a part of their allowance once a month to buy an item for a "giving box". You may use a different theme each month, (school supplies, dry goods, toys, etc.) and in December give the box to a charity of your child's choice.

How can I avoid overpunishing my child?

It Only Takes 2 Minutes!

It has been proven that a two minute time out is as effective at preventing misbehavior as a half-hour time-out. A time out simply needs to be a removal from an overstimulating situation, and two minutes should be enough.

How can I motivate my kids to do chores?

Clean Up Bingo

To help motivate kids to do household chores, draw a grid on a piece of paper, like a bingo card, and fill in the squares with various household chores. Give them the center square "FREE". Then, write each chore on a separate slip of paper and put the slips in a jar. At chore time, the kids each pick a slip. After the chore is completed to your satisfaction, they get an "X" on that square. Once your kids get a BINGO, reward them with a treat.

What is an alternative to time-outs?

Hug Therapy

Instead of issuing time-outs immediately after a misbehavior, try offering your child a choice of either time-out or hug. A hug will still separate your child from the situation and you will both calm down so that you can discuss what happened and decide how to prevent it in the future.

How can I encourage my kids to hear what I am saying?

Getting Kids to Listen

To get your child to actually do what you ask describe your request in more detail rather than criticize. Ask them to repeat what you have told them and offer limited choices instead of giving orders. Give your child undivided attention when they are talking to you to set a good example.

How can I teach my kids about respect?

You Get What You Give

In order to teach kids the importance of respecting others, you must first treat them with respect. They will learn the importance of it by modelling your behavior and by learning what it feels like to be respected in return. Remember that they are very important individuals!

How do I set and maintain boundaries for my child?

Importance of Boundaries

Children need boundaries in their lives. Just as important as knowing a certain room is their territory, such as their bedroom, kids need to know what the rules are and where you draw the line. Boundaries provide a sense of security. One important thing you child needs, along with love, is security. Expect the boundaries to be tested, but hold them firm.

How do I deal with my own anger?

Don't Take It Out on the Kids

When you and your spouse are angry with one another, do not take it out on the children.

They are easy targets because they are always around, but taking out daily frustrations on children doesn't resolve the problems between spouses.

Making comments like, "You are just like your father....your mother..." This will only hurt the children in the long run.

Understand, even if you apologize to the child, the words have already been said. Speak carefully when frustrated. The best bet, is to walk into another room and take a few deep breaths, realize what is about to be said and how harmful it could potentially be.

It doesn't mean things won't be said from time to time, but when a pattern of behavior is set and using kids as a verbal punching bag, it only leads to strained and harmful relationships.

How can I deal with my own anger?

Dealing with Anger

When we get angry, adrenalin is produced that goes racing through our bodies because it has been alerted danger is imminent. It is adrenalin that enables people to perform superhuman acts in crisis situations, such as lifting a car off of a young child. So you need to get rid of that excess energy soaring through your body that's causing “your blood to boil.” If possible, go outside and take a brisk walk, go for a run, head for the gym or a workout room. Release that energy and cool your head. Then you can think clearly and will be better able to make appropriate decisions rather than rash decisions made in the heat of the moment.

How can I encourage responsibility in my child?

TV Coupons

To help kids take responsibility for their TV time, and choose shows wisely, try using TV-time coupons. Each day, give your child several 1/2 hour TV coupons (you decide how many). The child must "cash in" a coupon every time he wants to watch TV. If he runs out, that's it for the day. It should end TV arguments, and teach your child to save coupons for things he really wants to watch.

How can I ensure that my kids listen to what I say?

Sticking to Your Word

Now we all promise our kids that we'll do something and sometimes we forget. Make sure you follow through no matter what. You want your kids to trust you not think that you don't lie to them. If they think that, they will start to not listen to you. Stick to your word. It'll make things easier on you and them.

How can I stop yelling at my kids so much?

Pick Your Battles

Choose the three things that your kids do that bother you the most. For example, hitting each other, yelling, leaving messes around the house. Concentrate on disciplining these three behaviors and let the rest go ( unless they are dangerous). Your kids will be more likely to hear what you are saying because you won't be nagging them so frequently.

What do I tell my child if she walks in on lovemaking?

Walking in on Lovemaking

It is important to be honest with your child if she walks in on you and your husband and tell her that there is a special way that mommies and daddies show each other that they love each other. How much detail you go into depends on the age of your child, and how much detail she wants. Let her lead the discussion, and truthfully answer her questions. When she has heard enough, she will stop asking questions. Be sure to explain to her that this is a private time for you, and it is inappropriate to talk about this with other people, but it is not something to be ashamed of. Also tell her that since it is private that she should always knock on your bedroom door when it is closed. Also, be sure to respect her privacy, and she will do the same for you.

How can I increase my child´s responsibilities?


Trying to get children to pick up after themselves is a feat in itself. Try making a chart. Choose a reward and when the chart gets filled the child can get his or her reward. The older the child gets the reward should get smaller or maybe become an allowance. This teaches a child responsibility and also rewards them for good behavior.

How can I help my kids to remember to say please?

Mind Your Manners

To help my kids remember to use please and thank you each time they ask for something, I pretend that I cannot hear them when they forget. Sometimes I remind them by saying that I can't hear them when they ask like that, and other times I simply don't respond. After a few tries, they always remember, and quickly fix the question. It has taken a little while, but I notice that I now rarely need to be hard of hearing.

How do I stop my daughter from wearing sexy clothes?

Sexy Dressing

If your little girl feels the need to dress in sexy clothes, there are a few things you can do to keep this behavior from getting out of hand.
1) Take charge - for your daughter's safety and emotional well-being, do not let her make all the decisions.
2) Control what is on TV - many shows on TV are not appropriate for kids or teens, and send very inappropriate messages.
3) Teach Respect - teach girls to respect themselves and that their sole purpose is not to please boys.
4) Talk about sex - whenever kids ask about sex, answer them honestly and truthfully. Communication and education prevent kids from testing on their own.

How can I avoid overpunishing my child?

Use Logical Consequenses

If a child is misbehaving, use consequences related to the misbehavior. For example, if a child is refusing to wear a bike helmet, than do not allow the child to ride his/her bike until they wear their helmet.

How can I get my kids to listen to me?

A Fun Way to Get Kids to Listen

To get your kids to cooperate without having to resort to anger, try using a "family fun jar". When your children listen to you the first time you make a calm request, they are given a penny to put in a jar. If they don't listen, they have to take a penny out. When the jar is full, they get to pick a fun, family activity of their choice.

How can I encourage responsibility in my child?

Give Them Some Space

If you give your children some space as they reach the double digits, it will give them the confidence they need and it will also teach them about responsibility. My oldest two children have made great strides with responsibility since I changed my job and work closer to home. At the time I changed my job I allowed them to walk to where I work after school where the checked in with me. They then go home to do their homework and do several chores before the TV gets turned on. They are home for about 1 1/2 hours by themselves, with me within walking distance of the house, and they think that they are being treated like young adults. They respect me more for trusting them and they also respect each other more too. The homework and chores get done earlier than before and they think it is all fun. A little space has created more responsible children for me.

How can I teach my kids about respect?


Teaching your child respect is not an easy task. Try to respect your child and set the example yourself. Encourage volunteer work and relationships with their grandparents. Let them join a sport or a club. They will learn respect from what they see.

How can I teach my kids respect?

Treat Kids Like People

The next time someone asks you about your kids in front of them, ask them to ask your child instead of you. If they are uncomfortable, chances are the question shouldn't have been asked in front of your child in the first place.

How do I get my kids in the car without fights and tantrums?

Natural Consequences

Natural consequences are the best way for your child to learn. The next time you are getting ready to go somewhere and your child does not want to put their coat on don't argue with them. It is not likely they will catch pneumonia on the way out to the car without their coat. Take their coat to the car and when they get cold they will put it on. They will soon learn if they don't put their coat on they will get cold.

How do I set and maintain boundaries for my child?

Setting Boundaries

It is your job as a parent to set boundaries for your children and then make sure the boundaries are maintained. If a child is told to look both ways before crossing the street, and doesn't, it is time to reaffirm the boundary. Discuss it with them and you may want to consider not allowing the child to cross the street unless accompanied by an adult until they learn the appropriate behavior. It shouldn't take but a few times for that lesson to be learned, and it may save your child's life!

How do I stop my child from biting?


Young children biting others is a very common problem. This is a guaranteed way to get a reaction and attention, even if negative. He may also be doing his biting if he is bored, nervous, hungry or tired. To know how to get him to stop, you will need to figure out why he is doing it. It may be because of the reaction and reinforcement he gets when he does it. Does he do it at times when he is feeling lonely or hasn't had your attention for a little while (which to him may be only a few minutes)? Whatever the cause, it is very important never to bite back, as you are trying to teach him that biting is wrong, therefore it should be wrong for you to do it too. Besides, he is likely too young to realize the pain he feels from your bites is the same as the pain others feel from his bites. Always separate him from the situation when he does bite, explain that he hurt you, and explain to him that it is OK to be angry (or bored, or lonely, etc.), but it is not OK bite. He may need a time out to calm down. Be sure to be consistent in your reaction, as he may be doing it simply for your attention, and if he doesn't get the reaction he is looking for, he will stop (eventually). Also, make sure that no one in his life playfully nips at his toes or fingers during play time, as this will confuse him and reinforce that it is OK to bite.

How do I set and maintain boundaries for my child?

Maintaining Boundaries

Once boundaries are established, don't be continually moving them. Don't threaten a child that if they don't stop a particular behavior there will be consequences. Many parents are guilty of not following up with the promised consequences. What this says to the child is that you really didn't mean it and that the boundary has been moved. If you are constantly moving the boundaries, the child ends up confused and doesn't know when you intend to follow up or if you ever will.

How can I deal with conflicts with my child?

Discipline or Punishment?

How one handles the inevitable conflict between parents and children is what really matters.
Discipline, to most of us, suggests punishment, and we often confuse the two.
The words have very different meanings, though.
"Discipline" comes from the Greek word, "disciplina" which means "to teach" or "to lead."
We are teaching our children to lead themselves. We are teaching them to be self-disciplined, so they can make responsible choices when we're not around.
When we set firm boundaries, we provide children with a sense of safety and security.
When we discipline with love, we give two important messages: "I care too much about you to allow you to act inappropriately," and "I care enough about you to take the time and effort to teach you how to behave."

How can I stop my child from interrupting me when I am talking?

Put an End to Interruptions

To teach young children not to interrupt you or other adults when you are talking, have them stand next to you and hold your hand whenever they need to tell you something. It's an easy and silent way to get your attention, and a gentle reminder to you that they need it.

How can I teach my kids about respect?

The Talking Napkin

To help kids practice communication skills and showing respect for others, try this dinner time tip. Place a red cloth napkin on the table and pass it around during the meal. Whoever is in possession of it gets to talk without interruption. This is a great way to control the usual mealtime din.

How can I help my kids to remember to say please?

Remembering Please

To help my kids to remember to say please when they are asking for something, I pretend that I cannot hear them unless they say it. Sometimes they ask a few times before realizing what is wrong, but I see a definite improvement. It also helps them to realize how often they are asking for things, and just how much I actually do for them.

How can I prevent repeating my mistakes?

Learning From Your Mistakes

Remember to learn from your own mistakes and the mistakes your parents might have made. Try to correct yourself so the same things don't happen again.

How can I avoid temper tantrums?


If your child is on the verge of a tantrum, try diversion, such as looking out the window, or reading a book. It is tough to act out on a tantrum if it is forgotten.

How can I teach my child to problem solve?

Problem Solving

Teach your children to think and problem solve for themselves. Ask your child what happened in the situation and ask them how they might resolve this or a similar issue in the future. Of course, all these must be done at a developmentally appropriate level and in a safe environment.

How do I offer words of encouragement to my child?

New Words for Encouragement

When encouraging your child, it is important to not always use the same words. "Good Job" loses some of its impact if those are the only words a child hears. Try some of these suggestions to encourage your child through life's challenges:
Wow!, That's great, I like the way you're working, Keep up the good work, That's quite an improvement, Much better, Keep it up, You really outdid yourself today, Congratulations, That's right!, Good for you, I'm very proud of the way you worked today, You're on the right track now.

How can I stop yelling at my kids?

Yelling Hat

If you find yourself yelling at the kids on a regular basis, and you know that it is not effective since the kids are blocking it out, try making a yelling hat for your household. Establish a rule that if anyone wants to yell, they must first put on the hat. This should help by providing a few seconds of cool-down time, plus it makes yelling a conscious decision. It also makes you aware of just how much you do yell.

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Guru Spotlight
Patricia Walters-Fischer