How to Encourage Discipline in Children: Principle #1

We are discussing some key principles to help children self-regulate.  This principle sets the tone for all the other principles of discipline in children. This principle is to set up a warm, reciprocal, and responsive caregiving environment within which limits and standards are firmly enforced, so that the child wants to be cooperative with most of the requests made.

Healthy discipline sets clear boundaries

Setting healthy limits for discipline
Authoritative parents set healthy limits to encourage child self-regulation

Research has shown that it is the emotional climate within a family that sets the stage for children’s gradual internalization of values and the ability to follow standards and rules cooperatively.  This emotional climate is commonly called “flexibility within clear boundaries.” 

This type of healthy environment is a place in which parents are caring, warm and openly and unconditionally love their children. Yet, clear boundaries of what is or is not acceptable are set and the children know them and feel secure with them.  At the same time, children are encouraged to be independent and have a say in what goes on in the family.

There are several parenting styles typically identified in research.  Permissive parents tend to produce children who are immature and lacking in self-reliance and self-control.  Children of authoritarian parents, however, were discontent, submissive, whiny, distrustful, withdrawn and often aggressive.  Children with either permissive or authoritarian parents tend to have lower grades than those who experienced authoritative parenting.  The children of authoritative parents were found to be more self-confident, self- controlled and assertive.  In fact they obtained higher grades in high school.

Authoritative parents are characterized as providing this blend of a caring environment for their children and firm boundaries that are communicated clearly and consistently enforced within the home. These parents also encourage a level of independence in their children which helps to instill confidence and a healthy sense of self.

Setting this type of balanced environment is key to helping children self-regulate. This healthy environment sounds ideal but is sometimes quite difficult to implement and maintain.  It takes a great deal of perseverance and consistency. 

We will continue to discuss each of the principles that are most helpful to our children as they grow and develop in the context of a loving family.

Gerry Vassar,  President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Sarah Landy, p. 401.


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