Parents discipline their children as a way to correct and teach them. The best kind of discipline makes sense to kids, helps them learn while feeling good about themselves, and gives them a chance to correct mistakes. Parents and children share together in this process of teaching and learning, and in doing so, children learn how to regulate themselves by having parents provide some external regulation.
As you teach and guide your children, here are a few general ideas to consider:
Develop a few simple rules with reasonable limits. Reasonable limits are age-appropriate limits. Your child will begin learning how to have internal control by experiencing reasonable, age-appropriate limits.
Explain to your children what they can do. They will not be learning what is appropriate and accepted if you tell them only what they cannot do or what they are doing is “wrong.” For example, before going to the grocery store, perhaps you can tell them that they can push the cart, hold the grocery list, or tear off the sack for the fruit. Give them information to help them learn what will be OK.
Pick your battles and set up your home or any situation so you do not need to say “No” or “Don’t” continuously.
Provide some routine actions. Brain and body systems learn to recognize smooth and predictable routines. Kids experience feelings of security and calmness through some routine, and they learn to prefer this feeling. Providing some routine in a child’s day helps the child learn to self-regulate.
Give your child choices, so he or she feels involved. “Do you want orange juice or apple juice?” “Would you like to take your blanket or your teddy to Nanny’s?” By involving your child, you are engaging his or her brain and developing connections for internal self-regulation and control.
Take the time to praise your child for good behavior and put your affection into words and a gentle touch.