How to Encourage Discipline in Children: Principle #7

Many times when I am speaking with parents and caregivers who are frustrated by their struggles to get their child to complete a task or move from one task to the next. It can be extremely irritating when things need to be done, or you are in a hurry, and the child is just not moving forward in order for the day to progress.   When these moments occur, parents can easily escalate the conflict rather avoid the it.

How to avoid discipline struggles

13 Tips to avoid discipline struggles
The times that parents often report as being the most difficult for children include leaving home in the morning, returning home at the end of the day, and going to bed.

Principle #7 is to avoid discipline struggles whenever possible.  Constant conflict is just not healthy to a child-caregiver relationship. Instead, we must help encourage those relationships in as many positive ways as possible. 

The times that parents often report as being the most difficult for children include leaving home in the morning, returning home at the end of the day, and going to bed. 

Certain situations such as keeping appointments and doing errands are stressful because children often have difficulty making transitions. When a child is taken to the grocery store or doctor, or is changing from one place or situation to another, it is helpful to establish a routine for preparing for this event in order to avoid problem behaviors that can occur because new places or situations can be overstimulating and, therefore, difficult for some children.

13 Tips to handle transitional situations with children

For those transitional situations allow plenty of time to prepare the child ahead as to what to expect. And more importantly, try to choose a time of day that your child is less tired.  Here are some more ideas for helping children with a variety of anxiety provoking transitions.

  • Make some rituals for the whole family to follow ( e.g.,  get dressed before coming down for breakfast, set a bedtime routine).
  • Give small children time to finish activities. Use a timer to give them a warning.
  • Lay out clothes the night before.
  • Give the child an alarm clock for getting up in the morning.
  • Give advance warning about schedules.  Explain the meaning of “before” and “after.”
  • Allow the child some times during the week that they do not need to rush and be scheduled.

Here are some additional ideas to consider when situations are more extreme and difficult:

  • Prepare the child for change or outings well ahead of time
  • Give up to 3 warnings that it is time to get ready
  • Explain what will happen and how long it will take
  • If possible, let the child have a role in the event (e.g. finding some things at the grocery store).
  • Remember to keep the outing manageable and vary it according to the child’s level of coping.
  • If appropriate, compensate the child in some small way for good behavior.
  • Choose the best time of the day for the outing, when your child is likely to be at his/her best.

I will discuss other significant ways to avoid unnecessary conflicts with children that  in the next post.  For now, take some time and look at those very difficult transition moments for the child in your care, think about what has been discussed and give some of these ideas a try.  I’m sure it will help avoid some frustration and conflict.

Gerry Vassar,  President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Sarah Landy, p. 404.


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