Helping a child to behave in an acceptable manner is a necessary part of raising the child well. Discipline varies at different ages. There is no one right way to raise children, but child and adolescent psychiatrists offer the following general guidelines:
Children generally want to please their parents. Wise parents can in their disciplining activities use children's desire to please.
When parents show joy and approval for behavior that please them, this reinforces good behavior in the child. When parents show disapproval of dangerous or unpleasant behaviors at the early stages, they are more likely to be successful when the child is older.
The way the parent corrects a child or adolescent for misbehavior should make sense to the youngster, and not be too strict that the child or adolescent cannot later feel the parent's love and good intentions.
Children and adolescents can and do anger parents, and parents need good self-control when they are angry. Although a loud "no" may get the attention of a toddler heading for a street full of traffic, it does not quiet a crying baby. For older children, there should be clear expectations, agreed upon by both parents and clearly told to the child or adolescent.
In our mixed society, where cultures and parenting styles are varied, different families expect different behaviors from their children.
One child may be allowed to come home at any time, while another child may have a strict curfew. When parents and children disagree about rules, an honest exchange of ideas may help them learn from each other. However, parents must be responsible for setting the family's rules and values.
Keeping unwanted behavior from happening in the first place is easier than stopping it later.
It is better to put breakable or treasured objects out of the reach of toddlers than to punish them for breaking them. Parents should encourage curiosity but should direct it into activities like playing with puzzles, learning to use paints or reading a book.
Changing a child's unwanted behaviors can help the child have the self-control needed to become responsible and considerate of others.
Self-control does not happen automatically or suddenly. Infants and toddlers need parental guidance and support to begin the process of learning self-control. Self-control usually begins to show by age six. With parents guiding the process, self-control increases throughout the school years. Teenage experimentation and rebellion may occur, but most youngsters pass through this period and become responsible adults--especially if they had good early training.
Families pass methods of discipline and what is expected of children from generation to generation.
When discipline attempts are not successful, it is often helpful for someone outside the family to make useful suggestions on raising a child. Professionals trained in child growth and behavior can give information on the way children think and develop. They can also suggest different approaches to changing unwanted behavior. The patience of parents, and help from caring professionals, when necessary, will help smooth the way for children to learn and enjoy what society expects of them and what they can expect from themselves.