Discipline for Kids
Jinny Hopp, Human Development Specialist, Jasper County, University of Missouri Extension
Parents worry about the effects of their working on the family. Mothers in two parent homes sometimes feel GUILTY about not being at home when the children arrive at home from school. Fathers worry that the demands of a career take time away from the family. Sometimes these worries cause parents to avoid being too tough on their children when it comes to enforcing the rules at home. Parents are responsible for dependent children as they grow into self reliant adults. Part of the process is teaching children how to act within the bounds of society. Parents who are too indulgent with their children do not help children understand what is expected of them. Research shows that parents who use authoritative parenting along with warmth have children who get along better with their peers, achieve more at school, and act out less than children whose parents are permissive or are authoritarian in their parenting styles.
Authoritative parents let the kids know what is expected of them. They communicate clearly about accepted behavior. These parents let kids know when they succeed as well as when the child’s behavior does not meet expectations. Talking and listening to each other is a great way to find out what the kids feel and know. Parents can learn what kids want and need if they are good listeners.
What is reasonable behavior? Children’s behavior should be appropriate to their age. Parents have many resources for information about child development including Missourifamilies.org. Child care providers, teachers, and other adults who spend time with groups of children are also good resources for age appropriate expectations. Sometimes stress causes children to backslide to younger behaviors. Adults who work with your child can help you identify strategies to help your child cope with the stress.
Rules for children should be clear and easily understood by the child. Young children need a few very simple rules, for example, “You may not hurt yourself or others”. As the child grows rules can be expanded and adapted to the home situation. It is a good idea to write the rules down in a place where everyone can refer to them. Older children can help phrase the rules in language which has meaning for them. They can also help determine what privileges are lost or what punishment occurs when the house rules are broken. People who are part of the process take responsibility for keeping the house rules.
Another part of becoming a self reliant person is to be responsible for one’s own environment. Praise from parents for responsible behavior is a better motivator than punishment for inappropriate behavior. Many families use a job chart as a way to encourage responsibility while sharing the work of the household. When families approach tasks from a positive “what we can do together” approach everyone’s life is improved. Children who participate in problem solving with their parents to make a home a comfortable place for everyone are learning skills they will use forever.
When discipline is part of life everyday it becomes a habit and strength for a child rather than a threat for misbehavior. When the family works together to get the family work accomplished everyone will have more time to play together too!
For more information see MU publication: GH6119 - Positive Discipline and Child Guidance.
Last Updated 05/05/2009