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Child discipline is a controversial subject for most parents, and even for adults who are not parents. Many people have very strong opinions on the issue, especially when it comes to corporal punishment. Views range from including spanking or physical discipline as abuse to spanking being seen as a normal and accepted form of discipline for children. Fortunately for any parent who is ambivalent about this form of discipline, many alternatives exist for disciplining your child without spanking.
One of the most important things to remember with regards to discipline is that your child needs you to be calm while disciplining him. Many parents become angry and react in the heat of the moment. Your immediate reaction may be something that you end up regretting. The best course of action when you are angry is to do nothing, but to remove yourself from the situation. This may be done by sending the child to his/her room or another part of the house and explaining that the matter will be discussed after the child has had a time-out.
A time-out can be effective discipline in and of itself. Children crave attention and will often try to get their parent's attention in any way possible, whether negative or positive. Yelling, lecturing, etc. may not be seen as discipline by the child, but rather a reward of parental attention for their behavior. The child may connect their unwanted behavior with this reward, which will serve to reinforce their behavior rather than stopping it. Time-outs should vary by age, with younger children not receiving a time-out of more than a few minutes.
After you have had sufficient time to become calm, you can decide what level of discipline is appropriate for your child's actions. If there are two parents in the house, the parents should be united, as children will sense division and generally manipulate it to get out of being disciplined. It is better to have both parents operating as one unit rather than the child knowing that one parent is a lighter disciplinarian than the other.
When possible, the disciplinary action should be relevant to the offense. For example, if something is broken by a child, he/she may need to save his/her allowance or earn money by doing extra chores in order to save up and replace the item. If your child is disrespectful or hurts someones feelings, he/she can write an apology letter or deliver a personal apology.
However, sometimes it is not practical for the discipline to match the negative behavior. In this case, the parent or caregiver should calmly explain to the child why their behavior was unacceptable and what the consequences are. Something that is valuable to the child may be temporarily taken away, for example, television shows, a favorite video game, etc. The child could receive extra chores for a period of time, or simply have a time-out.
There are many ways to discipline your child, but no matter which one you choose, it is vital that you stand by your decision. Children generally cry, scream, argue, and try to manipulate their way out of consequences, but these boundaries are necessary for them to learn appropriate behavior and to feel secure. A calm explanation of the behavior and the consequences helps the child learn from her mistakes, and keep the parent sane.