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When asked about their discipline methods, many parents will mention that they use consequences when their children misbehave. But discipline is so much more. The root meaning of discipline is “to teach.” To discipline – or to teach – effectively, parents need many, many tools, not just one (consequences). Here are some tools to put in your discipline toolkit. You may be surprised at some of the ideas listed; some may not seem much like discipline to you. But once parents begin to use a broad range of “tools,” they usually find that their efforts to teach their children to behave become more effective.

I’ll start with prevention tools. Preventing misbehavior before it happens is more effective (and less stressful) than anything else. Here are strategies parents can use when children are not misbehaving that will help keep problems from occurring.

Teach values and behavior:
  • Demonstrate the desirable behavior yourself
  • Tell stories to make a point
  • Make your expectation clear before an event or activity
  • Give specific (and brief!) instructions
  • Prepare your child for something that might be difficult for him
  • Catch your child being good!
Change the situation:
  • Change the surroundings
  • Change the activity
  • Physically redirect the child
Increase your child’s feelings of security:
  • Move physically closer to your child
  • Provide reassuring routines
  • Provide ways to ease transitions
Strengthen your child’s self-esteem:
  • Show interest in what our child does
  • Provide real affection
  • Enjoy each other’s company
Try some of these prevention tools this week and see if they improve your relationship with your child. Next week, I’ll go over some more tools to help you manage conflict and teach your children responsibility.

Esther Schak
Parent Educator, Saint Paul ECFE


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