3 principles for effective discipline of children, preschooler and beyond

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As a child, discipline for me and my friends usually involved fear based tactics like yelling and spanking. How times have changed!

I have had it pretty easy so far with my two elementary school aged children and my partner Shawn’s older two. They all have their moments but they are generally well behaved, courteous and polite. Rule number one for us as parents in a blended family is to avoid disciplining each other’s children (a topic for another post, coming soon :).

Below are three principles for disciplining children, preschool age and as they get older.

1. Learn from other parents and take to heart the advice of experts

We all know it takes a village. There’s nothing more helpful (and therapeutic) than chatting with girlfriends (over a glass of wine) about their parenting experiences and effective discipline techniques. As for things like raising our voices, losing our cool, cursing like sailors… it happens, we’re not perfect, simply doing our best. Besides, there are times when you just need to get your child’s attention! That said, trying to set a good example matters: admit when you’re wrong, apologize and move on. 

When it comes to parenting and discipline, Dr. Shefali's ideas have always resonated with me. I’ve never been a fan of fear-based discipline ideologies and try to always be calm and honour my children's natural state of being, and of others including my own.

2. Communication is key

My girls have a tendency to argue sometimes which can escalate very quickly into physical contact and raised voices. This tends to happen more when they're hungry or tired which is usually within my control. Monitoring energy levels, practising deep breathing and emphasizing the importance of personal space (a.k.a. a unicorn bubble request in our house) are all important for mitigating conflict in our home.

Obviously you can’t prevent every issue but it’s worth avoiding pitfalls where you can. Both family discussions and one-on-one check-ins with each child can be helpful to gage how everyone is feeling. It’s not a bad idea for each family member to have periodic appointments with a registered psychologist as well.

Keeping lines of communication open may get more difficult as children get older, especially as you get into the teenage years. This is where journalling and a trusted psychologist can be helpful.

3. Be adaptable (transitioning from the timeout bubble to taking things away)

My kids have been known to test boundaries when given the opportunity. As toddlers and preschoolers, the timeout bubble worked like a charm almost every time (read more about my experiences here). As they've gotten older, discussions and taking things away, such as playdates or electronic devices, tend to be more a more effective way of curbing unacceptable behaviour. I’m not a fan of taking away sports nor am I inclined to reward good behaviour with treats (see Dr. Pam’s post about rewarding kids with treats here).

Please share your ideas and experiences when it comes to disciplining children below!