One of the most common questions we get from parents at our North Texas preschool is about discipline. It’s an inherently tricky thing. How much is too much? What is healthy discipline? And how do you strike a 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.
The Latin origin of the word discipline is ‘to teach.’ When you discipline your child, you are teaching them about what behaviors are and aren’t acceptable. With consistent and appropriate discipline, you are also teaching your child about consequences and taking responsibility for their actions.
Your child’s intellectual ability develops over time, so discipline must align with their capacity to understand.
For infants and newborns, discipline requirements can be summed up quite nicely — there aren’t any! Your baby can’t comprehend the difference between right and wrong. While tired parents may sometimes find themselves at wit’s end with a crying baby, it is important to remember that they aren’t doing anything intentionally to unnerve you. Babies need all the love, attention, and care from their parents because they depend on you for everything.
When your child becomes a toddler, there is a little more room for discipline, but at the early end of this age group, they still don’t have the self-control to stop their impulses. You should consistently tell them what the rules are and remain calm. For example, if your child starts screaming in a restaurant, you want to calmly explain that we use a quiet voice in a restaurant. If they continue screaming, you should take dinner to go. If you lose control, you are modeling the behavior you are trying to stop. What’s important is establishing the rules and setting the stage for consequences, which will be vital as they get older.
Now that your child has a more developed ability to understand and control their behavior, you can start to use a clearer, more defined discipline. The key here is to set limits and follow through on them. Following through after you set limits is the key to setting consequences for their actions. If your child throws a tantrum at the grocery store because you won’t buy them candy, calmly explain what is and is not proper behavior, and don’t cave if they continue with the tantrum. These are difficult situations for parents because they may feel that others are judging them. Remember, you know what’s best for your child. If you give in to the crying, your child will learn that tantrums result in getting what they want. Another important note is to not use judgmental statements or labels when disciplining your child. Tell them that the behavior was bad, not that they are bad because judgment and labels can lead to self-esteem issues.
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 crucial 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, it’s because you’re also 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 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. Not always easy to do, but they must learn to be responsible.
At The Blue Elephant Learning Center, our educational professionals have years of experience working with children from ages six weeks to 12 years of age. We design our curriculum based on the latest in developmental science, and we create an environment that helps 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 joining The Blue Elephant family? Feel free to call us at 469-287-0332 or reach out to us at our contact page. We can’t wait to hear from you, and we hope to see you in one of our classrooms! Also, check out our Resource Center for other good information about raising children.