Kids and Discipline: What You Do and Say Matters

By GalTime Teen Expert Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, Psy.D.

How we behave in front of our children matters! How we behave in front of our children matters! As a child psychologist I can tell you that the recent study regarding the perils of spanking published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal is really not that surprising. The take-away message we are left with is one of affirmation and empowerment as parents. How we behave in the presence of our children matters. As parents we are their superheroes. If we model negative or aggressive behaviors they will and do follow our lead.

So, how should parents discipline their children? Research indicates that the parenting style most associated with positive outcomes is one which sets limits and boundaries but promotes discussion, negotiation and understanding. The key to positive parenting is consistency. Translation: do not say it unless you can and will follow through.

Related: Are You Always the Bad Guy When it Comes to Discipline?

The most effective way to set up rules with your kids is to make it a family affair.

  • Work with your kids to come up with rules and consequences. This way your kids will not only understand the rules, but will own them.

  • Your job is to automatically and consistently institute consequences when rules are broken.

  • It is also important to clearly define the rules. If for example, you are expecting your child to clean his room, you must clearly define what clean means. You may be surprised at just how diverse are your interpretations of the term.

  • Parents must present as a unified front. Discuss and decide before you meet with your kids. It is vital that you agree to stand together. The lessons you teach to your kids in this process are invaluable. If one parent chooses to undermine a rule or two, the whole process becomes a sham.

  • Behave in kind. (i.e. practice what you preach). Your kids look to you to model appropriate behaviors. If you do mess up on occasion (I know I do), be honest with your kids. We all make mistakes, it is how we handle them that can make all the difference. This is an important lesson you can impart to your kids.

You are the most important person in your child's life. What you do and say matters. By working with your kids to create a structured and predictable environment you ensure happiness and health.

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