Discipline: What method really works?

Everyday stresses can be exasperating for parents -- and exhausting for kids. Children inevitably test limits. What should a parent do? Is there a method of discipline that really works?

While some parents are not comfortable in the disciplinary role, order in a family must be preserved for all to survive. Lets take a look at some of the common methods of disciplining children and see how they really work.

  • Spanking. While most parents have experienced the urge to spank children, and many have resorted to spanking their kids, there are problems with this form of discipline. Spanking may give children a clear message about the unacceptability of their behavior and sometimes stops the behavior in the short run. However, in the long run, it teaches children that it is all right to hit, and that it is all right to be hit. Even children are confused by the irony of the statement, "This spanking will teach you not to hit your brother."
  • Time-outs. Giving children a short time-out can give them the chance to reflect on their behavior, and also a clear message that a certain behavior won't be allowed. This can be an effective method of teaching. Time-outs can also give an angry, frustrated parent a chance to calm down and respond more rationally. It is suggested that a child be given a time out equal in minutes to her age (a four-minute time out for a four-year-old child). It is not recommended to use time-outs with children under the age of three.

    The problem with time-outs is that they take a child away from a valuable learning experience. A child who hits another child can begin to learn empathy from watching the other's child's response to being hurt, and if he stays around, he may also be able to participate in helping the other child feel better.

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