We get a lot of questions from parents at The Blue Elephant, but one of the most common subjects by far is discipline. It’s an inherently tricky thing – how much is too much? What is healthy discipline? And how do you strike the balance between being a loving, accepting parent while also instilling a sense of right and wrong in your child? The answer is that it depends on your child’s age and stage of development.
For infants and newborns, discipline requirements can be summed up quite nicely: there aren’t any! Your child isn’t doing anything intentionally wrong no matter how it may seem – so just give them the love, attention, and care they need. It may seem like a lot to hold an infant for 18 hours a day, but remember that compared to being held 24 hours a day in the womb, it is a 25% reduction!
Toddlers leave a little more room for discipline, but on the early end of this age group they still don’t have the self-control to stop their impulses. Accordingly, don’t worry too much about the actual behavior – just consistently tell them what the rules are and how things are done. If your child is screaming in a restaurant, calmly explain, “We talk in a quiet voice when we’re in a restaurant.” If they keep screaming, take dinner to go. What’s important is establishing the rules and setting the stage for later on.
Now that your child has a more developed ability to understand and control their behavior, you can start to use clearer, more defined discipline. The key here is to set limits and follow through on them – calmly explain what is and is not proper behavior, and don’t cave when they throw a tantrum for not buying candy at the grocery store. If things do go wrong, never use judgmental statements – tell them that the behavior was bad, not that they are bad.
Now we get into the trickiest territory yet. Pre-teens feel increasing social pressure to conform, and that can often have disastrous results when it comes to discipline. Perhaps the most important guideline for working with children at this age is committing to a respectful tone – if you’re wondering why your child is in a screaming match with you, the answer isn’t far off; It’s because you’re screaming. Always use a calm, respectful tone with your child to teach them the proper way to communicate, and put a focus on strengthening your relationship with your child. When they do do things wrong, don’t rush in to protect them from natural consequences – if they forget the permission slip for the field trip, they don’t go. Simple as that.
At The Blue Elephant Learning Center, our educational professionals have years of experience working with children from ages 6 weeks to 12 years of age. We design our curriculum based on the latest in developmental science, and we create an environment that helps to foster confident, respectful children. Our mission is to help every one of our little learners develop into the best person they can be – and we see that happen every single day!
Have more questions about disciplining your child or want to find out more about TBE? Feel free to call us at 469.287.0332, reach out to us at our contact page, or join the TBE family. We can’t wait to hear from you, and we hope to see you in one of our classrooms! Learn more in our Resource Center.