Figure Out Whether a Consequence Is Needed
Many parents think that punishment is the heart of discipline, but most experts disagree. "Consequences are necessary only when being consistent doesn't work. But it usually does," says Dr. Donovan. "Four or five instances of simply taking the cookie out of the child's hand and saying, 'No sweets before dinner' will likely take care of the cookie-snatching behavior." Dr. Wolf agrees that punishment is usually not the way to go. "If the kids are throwing the ball in the house, by all means take the ball away--but they don't need to be punished," he says. "If the issue is something you care deeply about, reinforce your message later at a neutral time."
Consider consequences only for a few, carefully chosen misbehaviors--and only when your child repeatedly ignores your clear instructions. What's most effective is to let him experience the results of his actions: If he hits other children, he won't be able to join them for playtime.
Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the January 2003 issue of Parents magazine.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.