Discipline Lessons That Last

Never Belittle a Child

Name-calling and labeling ("You're so careless!") are two great discipline no-nos. These comments do very little to promote better discipline and a great deal to undermine self-esteem. Try, try, try to limit your criticism to your child's behavior.

"This doesn't mean that kids will be free from bad feelings about themselves sometimes because you've punished them," Dr. Severe says. "That's okay. Those feelings will pass." But a repeated blanket criticism, such as "Why are you always so mean to your brother?" may make the negative feelings stick.

Why Focusing on Behavior Works

It implies that you believe in your child and his capacity to do better. Eventually, it promotes good conduct. "Self-esteem comes from correct behavior," Dr. Severe says. "If I'm doing the right thing, I'm going to feel good about myself. And if I feel good about the way I did something, I'm going to want to do it again."

How To Do It

Withholding criticism is tough for many parents. So think before you speak (or shout). Your phrasing makes a big difference: Saying, "I love you, but your behavior was unacceptable" may feel forced at first but, after a while, will become second nature.

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