What works for one child, may not work for another, every child is different, your own beliefs and values also play a vital role in deciding how you will handle behaviour and discipline.

discipline – Disciple comes from a Latin word meaning “learner” &
discipline comes from one meaning “instruction, knowledge.”

It wasn't me!

Think very carefully about what you are trying to teach your child, what instructions and knowledge would you like them to gain from “discipline”.

Below are some ideas that might help.

Reminders. Sometimes children forget how to behave in a way that’s “acceptable”, children are just learning how to navigate through social behaviour and may simply need frequent reminders to help them to learn how to make better choices. Consider how many adults don’t behave in a socially acceptable way all the time, sometimes even adults need reminding.

Natural Consequences. Allow your child to understand for themselves why certain requests are made of them and understand the consequences of these choices, give them an explanation of what might happen as a result of their actions, but allow them to make the choice.  These work in situations where the consequences cause no harm to anyone else, although they may produce discomfort for the child. This might be allowing them not to put on a jumper, and letting them get cold – continue to offer the jumper to them, but allow it to be their choice and their own consequence. You may also explain to your child that if they behave in a certain way, as in not sharing toys or saying mean things to their friends or siblings, that their playmates may choose not to play with them. Or if they play roughly with a toy and it gets broken and they can no longer play with it.

Predictable Consequences. This is when you may need to enforce a consequence, that doesn’t occur directly because of their actions, but is a very predictable outcome of their actions. You may still want to advise your child of the predictable outcome for their actions, and allow them the opportunity to modify their behaviour before the consequence occurs. For example if they make a mess – they must clean it up or if you are taking them out to the park to play and they refuse to get ready to go – the consequence is that you won’t take them out.

Loss of privileges. If you’ve asked your child to do, or not do, a certain action or behaviour, and they’re continuing to do it, and particularly when it causes harm to them, others, or creates discomfort for others, then you may want to remove a privilege or something that they want, but give them the opportunity to decide to change their behaviour first. First example, if they are playing rough with other children at the playground, let them know if they continue to what they’re doing, and then you will take them home. This could also be if they are refusing to share a game or family toy with a sibling, then they may lose access to that toy or game.

Rewards for behaviour. Sometimes rewards are “natural” rewards, which is good to explain to children so they can then identify the different outcomes to their own actions. For example, if they’ve followed your instructions on an outing, then you have time to take them to the playground afterwards – whereas if they’d delayed you then you may not have had that extra time to be able to take them for a play. Otherwise, you may want to offer your child a “deal” where if they sit quietly at an appointment, afterwards you will take them somewhere they would like to go. This may also take the form of a rewards chart, for example – reminding them to brush their teeth every day and for each time they brush their teeth they get a sticker and when they have 28 stickers they can get a reward.

Praise. While it’s nice to tell your child they’ve been good, and praise them for being a “good girl/boy” it can also be helpful to them to know why that behaviour was “good”.  Try rather than saying they were good, but thank them for their behaviour and tell them why you appreciated it. For example “You were so helpful today when your baby sister was unsettled, it really made it easier for me when you got her blanket for me so I could get her to sleep and then I was able to spend some time with you, thanks for that!”

Time out. Sometimes a bit of space to stop and think about what outcomes a child is achieving from their actions can be helpful. Also if your child is behaving in a way that could be harmful to themselves and others have a safe space, where they can’t hurt themselves, where they won’t be able to hurt anyone else, until they’ve had the opportunity to calm down. This might be you need to separate siblings who are fighting or they are just so out of control they need a quiet space. A time out doesn’t necessarily have to be a punishment – it may be sitting in a beanbag with a book on their own, or sending siblings to go and play in their own rooms with the doors closed until they are ready to play cooperatively with each other. Time out may be time for YOU to take a breath and think through your next action if their behaviour is starting to frustrate and overwhelm you.


Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner. Rachel is obsessed prams, car seats, carriers and all things baby. She has worked in the baby industry for several years, for both suppliers and also in a retail setting and has developed a passion for connecting parents with the right products to make their lives easier. When Rachel isn't playing with prams she's enjoys crocheting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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