Smart Discipline Strategies

A top developmental pediatrician counsels parents on how to respond to their kids' behavioral difficulties.

Discipline Strategies, p.1

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What should you do when your 5-year-old won't go to sleep or do anything you ask without a negotiation? Or your 19-month-old throws temper tantrums when she doesn't get what she wants? While eliciting good behavior from children has always been a concern of parents, some experts believe this generation is struggling more because they're determined to use reason, not commands, with their kids.

"Parents want to listen to their children and treat them respectfully, but the downside is that sometimes their kids talk back or refuse to do what's asked of them," says Barbara Howard, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, MD, who calls this the democratic approach to parenting. "And parents don't know how to respond."

Recently, Child gathered a group of parents who were stymied by discipline issues and gave them an opportunity to pose their questions to Dr. Howard. A developmental and behavioral pediatrician -- a relatively new and growing subspecialty that puts particular emphasis on discipline-related problems -- Dr. Howard was president of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and is co-director of the Center for the Promotion of Child Development through Primary Care in Annapolis.

After listening and asking a few key questions, Dr. Howard was able to quickly discern why the children were misbehaving and offer practical solutions. Indeed, by the end of the three-hour lunch meeting, Dr. Howard had detailed a discipline method designed not only to improve children's conduct but also to strengthen parents' relationship with their kids for years to come. (To protect the participants' and their children's privacy, names were changed.)

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