There are one thousand ways to discipline your child, but not all of them will get you the results you want. The thing is, children react differently to discipline strategies for different reasons: age, personality, the discipline issue you’re struggling with, family context, your temperament, and so on. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all discipline strategy because each and every child is different, just as each and every parent is different.
The most important thing when dealing with your child’s behavior is to choose the strategy that best fits your needs and both your temperaments.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) All effective discipline strategies share the same characteristics
There is still much controversy about the most effective way to discipline kids. Although science has attempted to highlight harmful discipline approaches and to provide some clues as to the most appropriate discipline strategies, it is still impossible to conclusively establish how disciplinary methods affect kids over the short- and long-term.
What we know, however, is that regardless of the method used, effective discipline methods share similar characteristics. According to the Paediatrics & Child Health journal, effective disciplinary methods have six common characteristics:
1 | Must be given by an adult with an affective bond to the child
2 | Must be consistent and close to the behavior needing change
3 | Must be perceived as “fair” by the child
4 | Must be age-appropriate
5 | Must be temperamentally appropriate
6 | Must lead to self-discipline
2) Get informed
How do you choose the strategy that best fits your child’s needs? By being aware of the different strategies, reading about them, and learning how you can transform the theory into actual practice in your home. Resources such as the self-paced Mindful Discipline Email Course can help you identity an appropriate discipline strategy and show you how you can apply it in your home.
3) Be authentic
No discipline strategy will work if it goes against your fundamental nature. You are unique, and you bring something unique to your child’s life. Being authentic means being aware of who you are, what you want for your child, and what you stand for, and parenting in ways that are in line with your beliefs.
Being authentic also means recognizing your child’s uniqueness and fostering his strengths, rather than trying to mold him into the “perfect child” according to social norms. This ultimately translates into being willing to let go and allow your child to choose his own path, even though it will not necessarily be the path you would have chosen for him.
4) Keep your child’s personality in mind
Different strategies will work for different kids, and this has been scientifically proven. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington found that tailoring one’s parenting style to each and every child’s personality had a great impact on behavior.
The study, conducted over a three-year period with 214 families, analyzed everyday issues such as daily conversations, the problems most frequently encountered, and what gave rise to conflict. The study began when the children were 9 years old.
Parenting styles were also observed, with the researchers paying special attention to issues such as warmth and receptivity, negativity, autonomy granting, and guidance. They then measured the kids’ anxiety and depression levels and identified their personality traits.
The researchers came to the following conclusions:
• When parents were warm and receptive and encouraged their children’s autonomy, these children showed less anxiety and depression, but only if they had good self-control
• When parents were over-controlling and provided few opportunities for autonomy, their children had higher levels of depression and anxiety, despite good self-control
• The kids who had poor self-control were less anxious when they were provided with more structured environments and less autonomy
• The anxiety of kids with poor self-control skills doubled if they were provided with little control
• Maternal negativity increased depression among kids low in fear
What these findings show is that strategies in line with your child’s personality will always get you better results.
5) Your child’s age matters
- Did you know that timeout is a highly ineffective strategy for children aged 6 and above?
- Did you know that negotiation is a very effective strategy for older kids?
- Did you know that older kids act better when they feel involved in the decisions concerning them?
Knowing which strategy to privilege depending on your child’s age goes a long way in ensuring the effectiveness of your discipline approach.
If you’re feeling totally overwhelmed by your child’s behavior and no longer know what to do to get your child to listen and act appropriately, the Mindful Discipline Email Course can walk you through the steps to identify an effective approach to your child’s discipline issues.