Discipline: 5 Do’s and Don’ts When Your Kids Won’t Listen

Tips for mastering this key parenting skill

Your child has decided that whatever you have asked them to do, they simply won’t do it. You’ve asked time and time again but they still refuse. It’s time to take action and discipline them. But how do you know if you’re disciplining them correctly? Are you sure you’re making the right choices?

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Pediatrician Edward Gaydos, DO has some dos and don’ts for you to follow when it comes time to discipline:

1. Don’t view discipline as punishment

Discipline may feel as though you’re punishing your kids. However, discipline is more of a means of actively engaging with kids to help mold their moral character.

“With discipline, we are teaching our children self-control and restraint,” explains Dr. Gaydos. “Punishment is a direct, pointed penalty or a loss of privilege that serves as retribution.”

While discipline is far more effective than punishment, know that it does require a little more work. Just remember that it’s a process.

2. Do find opportunities for praise

It’s important to pay attention to what your child is doing, Dr. Gaydos advises. “Make an effort to notice when your child is actively engaged in being good, and compliment him or her on the good behavior,” he says.

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“Take the time to listen fully to what they have to say, and agree when appropriate. If we disagree, we say so — again, taking the time to let them know why.”

Parents who are available to, and show empathy toward, their children are serving as excellent role models, he notes. Communication is always the key.

3. Do set limits and keep them

Take the time to let youngsters and adolescents know the appropriate behaviors you expect from them. But once you set your limit, be sure to stick to it.

“We set these limits, then we follow through with them,” says Dr. Gaydos. “If your child falters, he or she should know that there will be a consistent, expected consequence. There are no surprises, no new negotiations and no retractions.”

4. Don’t threaten or explode

“Warning children, ‘You better be good,’ is too broad and general a message,” says Dr. Gaydos.

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Assuming a child should know what we want, not being clear about what we expect in advance, and setting unrealistic limits will lead to frustration.

That leaves the door open for reacting in anger or in an overly emotional way..

5. Do be a parent, not a buddy

It may be tempting to treat your kids like they’re your best friend. However, kids need you as a parent to teach them as they grow. Disciplining your child and setting limits will instill confidence as they learn to navigate through life.

“With discipline, we’re not passive observers, we’re actively involved as teachers,” says Dr. Gaydos. “It’s an ongoing process and requires work.”

But disciplining will pay dividends as you watch your youngster grow, become more confident and develop a good moral compass.

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