When and How to Discipline Your Child Regarding Right and Wrong
Quite often, discipline, or the act of teaching kids right from wrong, is dreaded by parents simply because it seems so daunting. It needn't be! If you approach the act of disciplining your child as an opportunity to teach rather than to force into submission, then discipline can actually be a mutually beneficial opportunity for both parent and child.
Many parents wonder about the age at which they should introduce their kids to morally acceptable behavior. While each child is obviously unique and at a rate of a development that suits him or her, most parents begin moral discipline training around the age of two. At this age children can mostly understand the difference between right and wrong, although they may not be able to express it.
Discipline Tactics for Toddlers
1. Be firm but loving. Limit discipline to a firm “no” and perhaps a simplified explanation (e.g. Don't go near the stairs because you can fall and get hurt).
2. Be consistent with your admonishment and follow-up. No point in saying “don't touch” and then retreating behind your newspaper without ensuring if those orders are obeyed.
3. Criticize the action, not the child. Don't ever let your child feel that you love him or her any less because of what they've done. (e.g. Biting is bad; ‘not you are a bad kid').
4. Let children understand (and live with) the consequences of their actions (e.g. You can't play with this toy because you broke it).
5. Be a role model for the behavior you wish them to emulate. Remember to give a toddler respect. Say please and thank you and ask them stuff in the same language and tone that you'd want them to ask you.
6. Reinforce positive behavior. Once in a while you'll catch your toddler sharing his ice-cream cone with a younger sibling – carpe diem! Seize the moment to showcase that sharing is a really good thing to do!
7. Be confident in your approach and tone. Children this age expect adults to have all the answers, so don't disappoint your child or worse, make him feel insecure by acting like you don't know what to do.
8. Smacking your child or using any other form of physical punishment is acceptable under very limited circumstances. If you feel a thwack is absolutely necessary, then smack only a child's bottom while he or she is padded with a diaper or nappy. Don't smack when you're feeling out of control and don't shake your baby or hit the child anywhere in a fit of rage.
Your disciplining techniques may be quite liberal (an occasional admonishment for the really dangerous stuff) to quite rigid (multiple warnings about bad behavior on a daily basis). Whatever form of discipline you decide to use, do remember that each child is unique and will learn in his or her own time. Always remember to underlay any disciplining tactic by telling the child how he or she will benefit from it.