Getting Your Child to Behave: Expert Answers to Your Most-Asked Discipline Questions

Teaching your child to behave is one the most challenging parts of being a parent. Doing it properly takes time, effort and sometimes a lot of patience. Read expert answers to your most pressing discipline questions and then get more advice on handling your discipline and behavior dilemmas.

1. What form of discipline really works?
Some methods of discipline are more effective than others. Spanking, for example, may stop your child's misbehavior in the short run. But, over time, you may be sending a message that hitting -- a common behavior problem -- is actually okay. Time-outs are useful because they offer children the chance to reflect on their behavior, but they can also take them away from valuable learning experiences. For example, a child who hits another child can begin to understand why this behavior is wrong, simply by witnessing the other child's response to being hurt. Sitting down with your child and discussing alternatives to unacceptable behavior can help your child make better choices the next time around. Whatever form of discipline you choose, be patient. It takes time and repetition in many different circumstances before children really get it. More on Methods of Discipline

2. How can I get my kids to listen?
Begin by communicating your expectations clearly. Instead of saying, "Let's get in the car. I know you want to go to grandma's, don't you?" say, "I want you to get in your car seat now. We are going to grandma's house." Communicate and deliver consequences in a matter-of-fact tone. Say, "If you do not do your homework, you will not be able to watch your TV show." Be sure you select consequences appropriate for your child's age, and that you are willing to deliver. More on Getting Kids to Listen

3. Is spanking okay?
Most parents have felt the urge to spank at one time or another. But while spanking may appear to work in the short-term, it doesn't in the long-term. A 2002 study by researchers at Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty found that the more often a child is spanked, the greater is the risk of childhood aggression and other antisocial behaviors such as lying, cheating and bullying. Children who are raised with spankings are less likely to learn right from wrong, and are more likely to misbehave behind their parents' backs. Discipline techniques that are grounded in the belief that a child deserves to be treated with respect are the most effective. More on Spanking

4. Are time-outs effective?
Time-outs can be an effective form of discipline for young children. They are generally most useful for children between three and four years of age. A child of that age will understand the connection between the "crime" and the "punishment." By the time a child reaches age four, however, her sense of time has improved greatly and she knows that she will not be in the chair for very long, or that all she has to do is say "sorry" or "I won't do it again" to end the punishment. At this point, time-outs may become less effective. More on Time-outs.

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