Main Line Pediatrics


How to Begin a Discipline Program

In a young child, the purpose of discipline is to protect the child from the dangers of the world around him. As the child gets older, the purpose of discipline includes teaching him what you believe to be right and wrong.

Remember, discipline means education, not punishment.

Used with permission of Barton D. Schmitt, M.D., author of Your Child's Health:

  • List any problem behavior. What do you want to change? Take three or four days to write down your child's inappropriate or annoying behaviors.
  • Set priorities for correcting the problem. Some modes of behavior need immediate attention, for instance those that might cause harm to your child or others. Some behaviors are too serious to ignore such as running in to the street. Some instances of unpleasant behavior, such as negativism, are normal and must be tolerated.
  • Write house rules about the most important kinds of misbehavior.
  • Devise a response for each type of misbehavior. The most helpful actions are ignoring the misbehavior, redirecting to appropriate behavior or putting your child into timeout.
  • Stop any physical punishment. Spanking carries the risk of triggering the unrelated pent-up anger that many adults carry around inside of them. This anger can start a chain reaction that can result in child abuse. Also, physical punishment of a child often makes a child's aggressive behavior worse. It teaches a child to lash out when he is angry.
  • Discontinue yelling. Yelling teaches your child to yell back, and it legitimizes shouting matches often resulting in win-lose argument.
  • Don't take your child to a public place until the behavior is under control at home.
  • Take daily breaks from your child.
  • Give your child positive feedback. Catch your child doing something good and praise it. As a rule of thumb, try to praise your child two or three times for each criticism to keep a healthy emotional balance. Protect your child's self-esteem.