Discipline: What method really works?


  • Talking with children. Talking with children offers rich opportunities for learning alternatives to hitting. It is often necessary to give children some specific suggestions about what they can say when they have strong feelings. Sometimes the suggestion, "Use your words," doesn't give children enough of an idea of what they could say. 
  • Listen to children's feelings. Many times children who are hurting each other are feeling hurt themselves. If you can acknowledge their hurt, they are often more able to be gentle with their siblings. "It looks like you were really frustrated that Jeffy took your truck. I saw that you were busy playing with it."
  • Give children information about what happens when they hit people. Children don't immediately know that hitting hurts other people. If you show your child (without scolding) the other child's hurt, he can begin to learn something about empathy. "I want you to look at Jeffy. He's crying because it hurts when he gets hit." (If you do this in a scolding or punitive way, your child will focus on your anger, rather than on the feelings of the other child.)
  • Offer safe, alternative ways to express those feelings and communicate their ideas. "You can tell Jeffy that you still want your truck. You can tell him, 'I don't like it when you take my truck.'"
  • Help children come up with alternative solutions. What children usually want when they take toys from each other is a chance to play together. If you can offer them suggestions for other ways to play together, they may be able to let their conflict go. "It looks like Jeffy wants to play trucks with you. Can you find him a truck he could use?" Or, "Jeffy looks really interested in what you are doing with your truck. Could he help you make a road for the truck?" 
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