Determining Your Discipline Technique

Now that we are in the toddler years with an active and independent little boy, discipline has begun, and it’s in full speed!  Our little guy literally looks at us and smiles before doing exactly what we instruct him NOT to do. Sometimes I get frustrated and other times I have to turn away so he doesn’t see me giggle at his cuteness 😉

I meet many parents in my personal and professional life who do well following the basic rules of consistency and maintaining patience, but knowing which discipline technique to apply is often diffcult.

photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Some of the most common methods of discipline out there are:

  • Ignoring the behavior
  • Spanking (Does spanking work? Read what the research says here)
  • Time Out
  • Redirecting
  • Witholding, or taking items of value
  • Positive rewards
  • Grounding

When deciding what method of discipline to use, here are some good factors to consider:

Child’s Personality

Every child is different, so consider your child’s personality, temperament, patters of behavior, and sensitivities when you choose a method of discipline. Some children are so eager to please that just seeing your disappointment is effective, while other children are more strong willed and require a stronger method of discipline.

Reasons for the Behavior

This is always important. Is your child seeking attention or testing limits? Maybe they are overly tired or adjusting to recent transitions in your home? If you can pin point the reason, use this information when you consider your response to their behavior.

Parent Preferences and Expectations

Just like children are not all the same, neither are parents. One parent may be more tolerant of certain behaviors than another, or have a lower frustration level than another. Additionally, parents will have personal preferences for their methods of discipline. Some parents choose not to use time-out and others do. I also know some parents who choose not to use the word “no” around their kids.

Child’s Developmental Age

Obviously what is appropriate for a toddler is not always appropriate for a teenager. I think Dr. Phil has a good age-appropriate discipline list you may find helpful:

Birth to 18 Months

Effective:

  • Positive Reinforcement
  • RedirectingIneffective:
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Time-outs
  • Establishing Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges

18 Months to 3 Years

Effective:

  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Redirecting
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Time-outs

Ineffective:

  • Establishment of Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges

4 to 12 Years

Effective:

  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Redirecting
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Time-outs
  • Establishment of Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges

13 to 16 Years

Effective:

  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Establishment of Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges

Ineffective:

  • Redirecting
  • Time-outs

This is a topic that could be a blog all by itself, but hopefully these basic guidelines are a good start!

References:

5 Factors That Influence Discipline Strategies

Dr. Phil’s Age-Appropriate Discipline Techniques

Published by

Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

3 thoughts on “Determining Your Discipline Technique

  1. For my toddler, what helps a lot is finding out the reason like you said and picking your battles. If it’s a small offense, then I can ignore it, but if it’s a major issue then I talk about it. I don’t do time outs or spanking though.

  2. I have found that a “time-in” works really well. Rather than send them to their rooms, I have them help me with something (cook diner, dust, run an errand, etc.). The time-in doesn’t work for all situations but I have found it helpful in building our relationship rather than alienate with a time-out.

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