A few weeks ago I blogged about having a conversation regarding discipline. This dialogue can occur at any point in your kid’s life, and will likely happen multiple times throughout childhood. Discipline should change as your child does. As they begin making more mature decisions, they will be capable of having a more mature relationship that hopefully entails less discipline. If you have been consistent with your discipline methods to this point, chances are good that you have established good patterns of communication and discipline with your child. Their behavior changes when they hit school age. Toddlers tantrum, while older kids slam doors, lock themselves in their rooms, give the silent treatment, and talk back.
Now is a good time for you to evaluate your discipline methods and make sure they fit the crime as well as your child’s personality. The line between too little and too much is very thin and is worth some extra thought and effort. Because school-age children are able to think for themselves, they should. Many times, discipline measures take place because they have not thought about the long-term consequences of their actions. At this point in their lives they are becoming young adults and the decisions they make are more permanent.
Take a look at what has worked in the past and revamp those methods. Many methods that work for toddlers simply need tweaking to fit an older child. Did the time out method work for you in the past? This same idea plays out when a child has to miss an event with their friends. Grounding a child is merely a slightly evolved manifestation of a time out.
By this age they are probably involved in extra-curricular activities such as sports, music, and the arts. Schedule their days such that there is little or no room for trouble. They should still have free time to do what they want, but their days should be pretty full between school, activities, homework, and family. If you are running into problems with behavior, one potential solution involves increasing their activity level.
Another way to fit the discipline method to your child is to look at what they really enjoy doing. The take away method has been around forever and is very effective. Do they love sports, hanging out with their friends, or tech gadgets? If you have invested money in these things, e.g. you have paid for sports teams, have them work to pay you back. Hard work is also a great form of discipline. Did they cost you time or money with their misdeeds or carelessness? The punishment can fit the crime.
Another way to employee this method is to have them choose the consequence. Many times kids are harder on themselves than we are. If they choose to have something taken away for a specified period of time, they are more invested in the result. This is another form of the idea that when you buy something with your own money, it is more valuable. Respect your child’s choice and stick with it. Let them know that you appreciate their involvement in their consequences.
Ultimately, the idea is to teach your children that the choices they make have consequences. When kids are young, the most important thing to teach them is that they must listen to you for their safety and that they must depend on you for their survival. As children mature they are able to do more for themselves. They may not need you to feed them or keep them from running into the street. Therefore you need to change your behavior to match theirs. Change the discipline to match the lesson you are trying to teach.
If you have not been spending as much one-on-one time with your kids as you would like, now is the time to fit that in. It is exceedingly valuable to know your kids at these times and allow yourself to see them as young adults and kids, not babies. Ask them questions, tell jokes or stories, and interact any way that comes naturally. This one action will cut down on discipline more than anything else.
Go with what works for you and your kids. If you are struggling with discipline, change methods or seek help. Asking teachers, doctors, counselors, and family coaches are a great way to implement some new strategies. It is important that you stay in control of your child as they learn to make good decisions for themselves.
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