Just-Right Discipline

When he won't go to bed

Your preschooler is out of bed again asking for his third drink of water of the night.

  • Too Harsh "I'm going to lock this door so you can't come out again!"
  • Too Wimpy "Daddy will lie down with you until you fall asleep."
  • Just Right "Let's have one final hug and get tucked in. It's time for sleep."

As frustrating as this is, try not to let your child see that you're annoyed. When he pops out, calmly walk him back to bed -- and don't give him any snacks or read an extra book unless you want to be doing this every night. He probably imagines that all sorts of exciting things are happening after he goes to sleep; when you make his repeat appearances boring and repetitive, they'll eventually stop.

Your toddler is having a tantrum because you turned off the TV, and she kicks you in the shins.

  • Too Harsh "That's it. This time you've gone too far. You can forget about watching television -- ever!"
  • Too Wimpy "I know you're upset, but how would you feel if I kicked you?"
  • Just Right "You hurt Mommy. Let me know when you have calmed down, and we can talk about why you're upset."

"The right response is probably the opposite of what your instincts are telling you," says Betsy Brown Braun, a child-development and behavior specialist and author of Just Tell Me What to Say. Rather than punishing her for kicking, just walk away (and take the remote with you). Separating yourself is a powerful strategy; you won't stay with her if she hurts you, but you won't let her distract you from the original issue. Later on, remind her that no matter what she's feeling, it's never okay to hurt another person. If you get mad and yell at her instead, there's a good chance you'll feel guilty afterward and may even turn the TV back on.

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