School age kids have a clear understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong. My ex-military husband considers me a disciplinary light-weight. I spend more time with our son. As a work-at-home mom, most of the discipline falls onto my lap. Every child responds differently, some of these may work for you.
1. Compliment good behavior – When my son and I play at the park and he shares and plays nicely with other kids I compliment his good behavior. This helps boost his self-confidence and reinforces the right way to behave.
2. Removal – On the rare occasion when my son does act out in a store, mostly by touching things when he’s not supposed to or stops listening, we leave the store. This immediately changes his attitude and he settles down. We do not return to the store together, I save my shopping for another day.
3. Explain – As my son develops, I find myself explaining my “no’s” more frequently. I try to make him understand why he shouldn’t do certain things, beyond the standard “because I said so” response I remember from my own childhood.
4. Reward – I learned from his potty training days that rewards go a long way in reinforcing behavior. When he listens and behaves like he should, he gets rewarded with a small toy or some time on the video game console.
5. Teach empathy – My son and a friend kicked another boy’s feet from under the seat on the school bus. He woke up at 4 a.m. and in the afternoon he spiked a fever. This does not excuse his uncharacteristic behavior but it did lend some insight into his actions. I asked him how he would have felt if he had been the one who was kicked, to help him understand how the other boy felt.
6. Establish a schedule – My son knows what happens by the clock, and he enforces it more than my husband and I do. He knows bath time happens at 6 p.m. and book time starts at 7:30 p.m. When a schedule disruption occurs, bad behavior rears its head.
7. Communicate expectations – I tell my son what I expect from him before we go to the library, a family gathering or the store.
8. Making connections – I remind my son he can’t watch TV before school until he has eaten breakfast, brushed his teeth and dressed. He knows play time comes after he does what needs to be done.
9. Maintain consistency – Stick to the rules you’ve established, and make sure other family members maintain them. Nothing confuses a child more than rules which change daily.
10. Consider the age – While rules need to be consistent, they also need evolve as the child develops. My son will wiggle around in a restaurant seat waiting for food, typical for a five-year-old. He’s also old enough to respect others enough to not disturb them while they’re eating.
Dr. Sears, “Top 10 Discipline Principles,” AskDrSears.com
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