Create a Discipline Toolbox Filled With Useful Parenting Strategies

Every parent needs a variety of discipline tools.
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There's a lot of advice out there about the "best way" to discipline kids. But, in reality, consequences and discipline strategies that work for one child may not work for another. 

And no single discipline strategy is effective for every rule violation. So while time-out may curb your child's aggression, taking away privileges may work best when he doesn't do his chores.

That's why it's important for parents to have a customized discipline toolbox, filled with a variety of discipline strategies that can be applied to misbehavior.

Just like with any toolbox, there will be some tools you use more than others. And there may be some tools that you occasionally forget about. But just knowing the tools are available gives you the confidence to deal with behavior problems of all sizes. 

Why You Need Many Different Tools

It's good to have several choices when you're deciding how to best teach your child about appropriate behavior. If your child misbehaves at school, should you take away his electronics or assign extra chores? 

What if the consequence you pick doesn't seem work? Having another tool to reach for can be the key to ensuring your child receives healthy discipline. 

Of course, you don't want to just randomly pick tools from your toolbox and apply them haphazardly. Instead, it's important to get a sense of which tools work best with your child.

For example, does your child need to learn life skills, like problem-solving skills? Or does he need to learn how to verbalize his feelings? Address any skill deficits that could help your child make better choices in the future.

Specific Discipline Tools

Your discipline toolbox should contain tools that prevent behavior problems before they start, consequences that teach life lessons, and strategies for teaching new skills. 

Tools That Prevent Behavior Problems

These discipline strategies require some extra time and effort but they're an investment that can prevent many behavior problems:

  • Positive Attention: Daily doses of one-on-one time prevents attention-seeking behavior. Time-out is much more effective when your child is getting plenty of time-in.
  • Praise: Catch your child being good and you'll encourage your child to keep up the good work. 
  • Pre-Teaching: Explain the rules and your expectations before your child goes to a new place or tackles a new project.

Consequences That Teach Life Lessons

When your child breaks the rules, use negative consequences like these to teach her to make better choices in the future: 

  • Ignoring: Actively ignore attention-seeking behavior and eventually, your child's misbehavior will stop.
  • Time-Out: Remove your child from the situation so she can take a few minutes to calm down. 
  • Loss of Privilege: Take away a privilege, like TV, for a specific period of time.
  • Logical Consequences: Help your child take responsibility for her behavior. If she breaks something, make her pay to replace it.
  • Natural Consequences: Let your child face the natural consequences of her choices.
  • Restitution: When your child's behavior hurts someone else, restitution can help make amends.

Tools That Teach Specific Skills

If your child is struggling with a specific behavior problem, like aggression or forgetting to do his chores, use a reward system that teaches specific skills: 

  • Behavior Chart: From chore charts to reward systems, there are many different kinds of behavior charts that can give your child goals and incentives.  
  • Token Economy System: Token economy systems motivate older children or those who have several goals to work on at a time. Tokens can be exchanged for bigger rewards. 

What to Do When a Tool Isn’t Working

If the discipline tool you’re using doesn't seem effective, examine your technique. Are there things you could do differently that may make the tool more effective? For example, are you consistent when applying the tool? Are you clear about the rules and consequences? Have you given it enough time to work?

If it appears as though a specific consequence just isn't effective, switch to a different tool. For example, if ignoring swear words hasn’t curbed your child's potty mouth, try rewarding him for using nice language or place him in time-out for using inappropriate words.

If you're really struggling to find a discipline tool that works well, seek professional help. Talk to your child's pediatrician or consult a mental health professional. A professional can help you rule out underlying behavior disorders and can help you discover the most effective discipline strategies.

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  • Positive Reinforcement Through Rewards
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