Old teacher willing to discipline young student

Have you noticed how kids behave differently at school than at home?

As an early education teacher, one of the most common questions I get from parents when they see their kids voluntarily cleaning up the classroom or sharing happily with other kids is:

How do you do that? My son always throws his stuff around at home and doesn’t like sharing toys with his brother! How do you get him to cleanup and share here without grumbling and drama?

I am also a mother of four. Over the years, I’ve taken some of the effective classroom discipline techniques and applied them at home. And they’re as effective at home as they are in the classroom.

Editor’s Note: To raise loving, happy, well-adjusted kids without nagging, screaming, stress and drama, to get popular 6-part mini-course How to Be a Positive Parent for FREE.

Today, I’d like to share with you the 6 secrets of highly effective discipline –

#1: Effective discipline is NOT about punishment!

Discipline comes from the Latin word “disciplinare”, which means, “to teach.”

I’m completely aware of Merriam-Webster’s definition as “punishment” and it is why so many parents dread being the disciplinarian, but discipline that actually works is NEVER about punishment.

Discipline is simply a way to guide and manage a child’s behavior.

Discipline is based on the quality of a child’s relationship with the care provider (a teacher in the classroom; mom and dad at home). When a child receives consistent response from a caring adult, trust, deep attachment and a sense of being wanted develops. This forms the foundation of good behavior and effective discipline.

The key is to ensure that these relationships are respectful, responsive and reciprocal.

As a teacher I understood establishing a daily routine and frequent communication was vital to developing respectful and meaningful relationships which directly affect behavior and a child’s ability to learn.

For instance, as children arrive into my classroom, I always make sure to greet them at the door; just as they greet me. I’m never “busy” planning curriculum, checking attendance or talking, texting or tinkering with my phone at drop off and pick up times. To take no notice of a child left in my care would send a message saying, “You’re not worth my time” which begins a cycle of mistrust.

At home, one way I put being respectful, responsive and reciprocal into practice is by setting my alarm clock 30 minutes before my daughter needs to start getting ready for school. Not so I can begin my day with peace and quiet, but so I can wake her gently.

First I turn on the light and call out her name and announce it is time to start thinking about getting up. After two or three minutes, I go to her room again, pull the covers and hair away from her face and tell her “it’s time to start getting up.” She’ll usually mutter along the lines of “I am trying” with her arms wrapped around my waist and her head buried in my stomach. I give her a big squeeze and a smooch on top of her head and tell her “go to the bathroom.”

In a few minutes I go into the bathroom to find her mostly asleep on the toilet, with her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. I call out to her again “wake up and brush your teeth” and she rises from her throne before I head downstairs to make her lunch.

I can hear the resounding “AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!” echoing in my head, but how would you react if your partner came running into your room quarter past 7, hollering for you to get up, tearing the blankets off of you, pulling you out of bed and shoving you into the bathroom? I know in my house there would definitely be a fight.

My daughter isn’t trying to be difficult. Nor is she spoiled and she certainly doesn’t stay up late. She just needs some time in the mornings before she is ready to take on the day.

When I adjust my expectations according to that instead of punishing her, things go a lot smoother.

#2: Effective discipline is about positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement comes in many flavors: smiling, sharing a high five and giving effective praise.

In the classroom, I’ve noticed that effective praise is selective, specific, encouraging and positive. It avoids comparisons and competition. It compares a child’s progress with his/her past performance rather than with other children and it’s delivered in a caring, natural tone of voice. Believe me children know when you’re just blowing smoke.

Also, I try to avoid using blanket phrases like “good job”, or “good girl/boy” and be specific about the action or observed good behavior.

The most effective of all techniques though is to catch children being good or in an act of kindness. The reward and acknowledgement will be more genuine than if your child runs up to you and exclaims he cleaned his room or shared his cookie with his baby sister.

When an older child tied the shoes of a younger child in my class I was all over it; I told him what he did was caring and kind. Then I drew attention to the facial expression of the girl he helped; she was smiling. When I asked her how she felt she replied “Good”.

At home this translates to making sure we stay away from comparison between siblings, calling names or using labels and copping out using standby phrases like “good job”.

Positive reinforcement can also be tangible; for example stickers, prizes and charts, but use it only as a last resort and for a short amount of time.

#3: Effective discipline is about modeling the right behavior

In addition to offering positive reinforcement, modeling appropriate behavior is equally important. Be mindful of what you say and how you say it — not just when you are talking to your child, but when dealing with others as well.

Modeling provides visual clues to what acceptable behavior is and indirectly reinforces the appropriate way to act.

Consider for example what happens in your car. Suppose you’re driving down the highway when suddenly you notice the car behind you is barely inches from your bumper, then the driver begins flashing the high beam and leaning on the horn.

Most people would let loose a slew of obscenities, jam on the brake and maybe throw up a “friendly” hand gesture, but suppose instead you slowdown in an attempt to get the aggressive driver pass you or you change lanes and let the hurried driver pass.

The first scenario can be confusing to your child if you’re always reminding them to “use nice words” and showing joy when you catch them using nice words. What is being demonstrated is the opposite — a lack of self-control — and conveys that you don’t have to use nice words when you’re angry. The second scenario demonstrates proper problem solving skills by remaining calm and not endangering others on the road despite being angry.

One of my worst habits in the toddler room was sitting on tables and other furniture (because infant/toddler furniture is infant/toddler sized). I wasn’t aware I was doing it until I found myself in a full blown conversation with a tot sitting beside me on a shelf. And even though climbing is important to gross motor development at this stage, climbing furniture isn’t something that I want to encourage my kids to do (especially if I’m not there to provide the necessary supervision!)

#4: Effective discipline is about providing the right guidance

When you guide your kids, always be direct. Give reasons and explanations for rules (keep it simple for young children).

And always, make sure directions and requests state what to do opposed to what not to do.

For instance, in my classroom, I focus on reminding children to “walk their feet” and explaining how walking keeps them from getting hurt, instead of just saying “don’t run”. It will help to drive the notion home if you retell a story of when your child was running and got hurt.

I even speak to my teenager in a similar way. For example “It’s late and you have practice in the morning. You should get to bed in 15 minutes so you won’t be too tired. Last weekend you were late because you overslept.” Sometimes he does go up on his own. Sometimes 15 minutes pass and I need to jog his memory again. But he hardly ever gives me a hard time.

#5: Prevention is the most effective form of discipline

This kind of “discipline” in my opinion is what will preserve your sanity. Why would I tell my baby to stay off the stairs a million times a day when I can install a safety gate? Or make extra work for myself lifting children to the sink every time they need to wash their hands, whereas placing a stool at the sink will allow them to access the soap, water and paper towels themselves.

Prevention not only is a great form of discipline but also supports self-help skills and builds self-esteem.

An important aspect of prevention is planning. Don’t go grocery shopping with your toddler during a time he normally rests. Do not abruptly interrupt play (or other activity) and expect your child to cooperatively and quickly get ready to leave so you can try to be on time for your appointment that’s in 20 minutes, on the other side of town.

Also, be proactive. If there are specific shows or channels you don’t want your child watching set parental codes on your TV. The same can be done on computers and mobile devices.

Being proactive prevents most arguments and negotiating, allowing you to spend more quality time with your child, instead of putting out fires all day long.

Here are a few more tips to embrace the prevention attitude:

  • Avoid speaking to your child from across the room or the playground – it’s easy for them to not hear you or ignore you, and that can result in unnecessary issues.
  • Give children as much notice as possible when changing activities, leaving the house and a change in the schedule. At school, five minutes before I need children to start cleaning up to transition to the next activity, I tell them “In five minutes we’ll start cleaning up so we can do music time”. Similarly at home before heading out to pick up my older kids from school, I tell my younger ones “In five minutes you need to put away the crayons and we’re going to get sister and brother.”
  • Young children are concrete, literal thinkers and the concept of time is way too abstract for them to grasp. Try setting a timer or pointing to where the minute hand on the clock will be at clean- up time. Alternatively you can completely avoid time and use a different format that they can grasp — for instance, if you were leaving the park you might say, “Two more times down the slide and then we are leaving”

And sometimes, you just need to walk away and let another adult handle the situation to prevent it from escalating.

I will never forget my first experience with a child who had a behavioral disorder. He wasn’t able to lie down on a cot and rest. He spent rest time at a table usually working on jigsaw puzzles (he was a puzzle machine!) and helping with tasks such as sorting toys and games.

However…… rest time is also used to give staff breaks and when teachers do most of their planning. This child would constantly interrupt me while talking with parents or other staff. He begged and pleaded for my undivided attention and company. It began to disturb the rest of the other children and he would call to them to leave their cots and come play with him.

Eventually the other teachers and I decided that I should take my break at the beginning of rest time while the other teachers helped the children who wanted to rest go down. (This was hard for me because rest time is my favorite time to get in one-on-one interactions). Then when I returned (provided he had been behaving while I was gone) I would spend about 20-30 minutes with him working on a puzzle or playing a quiet game of Uno.

As a parent, you need to seek out a similar support system, so you can periodically step away from a situation and let another responsible adult (the other parent, grand parent, nanny, baby sitter etc.) take over.

#6: When all else fails, use Time-ins

“Time-ins” are helpful for children school aged and younger. Time-ins are similar to a “time out” in the sense they both remove the child from a situation that causing them distress or harm. The difference however is huge. Instead of sitting students down at an empty table alone feeling bad about himself I created several spaces in my classroom where child could go to or be brought to when feelings become so overwhelming they interfere with the problem solving process.

These areas were private, cozy spaces in the nooks and crannies of my classroom that included soft, over-sized pillows, a class photo album, a small selection of books and quiet objects such as sensory or calming jars, Magana-doodle-esque boards and boxes sorted by themes of quiet, calming activities like magna-tiles or puppets.

Same as a time-out, a time-in should only last one minute per year of life (unless the child chooses to stay longer).

When the time is up I ask the child if he knows why he had to be separated from the group, then I help him think of better ways he could have solved the problem instead.

At home I have a similar space in my living room and in the two younger children’s bedroom because they share.

The above methods and examples meet a child’s/children’s basic needs, provide opportunities for learning and development and improve competence and confidence.

Negative reinforcement, such as spanking or time-out only seem to work at first because of shock value and over time it becomes less effective.

So there you have it – classroom discipline secrets that are as effective at home.

As you try them out, keep in mind that behavior doesn’t change overnight. Teachers like me work with scores of children on a daily basis. And still, discipline is something that takes us years of studying, practicing and reflecting to get a handle on.

As parents, it can be a lot more difficult. Give yourself a lot of grace. Get support; allow your partner, family and friends to pitch in and always remember to take time out to recharge your batteries.

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The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents

For our two minutes contemplation today, let’s take stock of where we are at with the way we discipline…

  • When you hear the word “discipline” does it automatically make you think “punishment”? How does this impact the way you approach a troubling situation?
  • Do your kids see you as a loving guide or a dictator? How does this impact your relationship with them? How does this affect their motivation to comply with the house rules? What about when you’re not around – will they choose to do the right thing?
  • What changes (if any) can you make to become more of a motivator and guide in your children’s lives instead of the cop, judge and jury?

The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents

Try a few of these over the course of the next week –

  • Create a predictable schedule so your child knows what to expect; like nap time after lunch.
  • Recognize problems as learning opportunities and give children freedom to solve problems on their own. When offering your solutions make sure your child is okay with and understands what you’re proposing.
  • Give your child the chance to make choices. One or two is enough and make sure you can live with whatever your child chooses. An example of this would be asking your child if he wants a peanut butter sandwich or pizza for lunch and not trying to talking him into the peanut butter sandwich when he chooses pizza.
  • Allow children to express their individual choices; don’t force your child to play with dolls if she’d rather play with monster trucks.
  • Be aware of your child’s triggers — particular sounds, sights, textures, places, activities or people can all be sources of undesirable behavior.
  • Keep track of times, places and what was happening prior to your child’s misbehavior — this will help you find out why your child is misbehaving and prevent it in the future.
  • Learn your child’s unique way of communicating and teach yours.
  • Be honest about your feelings and show how to express them appropriately.
  • Save no for emergency and serious situations. You obviously wouldn’t say “Sweetie get back on the sidewalk before you wind up under that 18 wheeler.” But you can say “after supper” or “when dad comes home” in response to your child’s request for ice cream at 6:30 in the morning.

Definition of Classroom Management

Classroom management refers to the ways in which student behaviour, movement and interaction during a lesson are organized and controlled by the teacher” Richards (1990, 10) .

Definition of Discipline

  • To maintain order and to keep the group on task and moving ahead, not to spot and punish those students who are misbehaving.“( Greenwood and Parkay, 1989)

The best teachers anticipate when misbehaviours are likely to occur and intervene early to prevent them. The most effective interventions are subtle, brief and almost private. They do not, therefore interfere with classroom activities.

  • Causes of deviant behaviour (Cole and Chan, 1987)

Class Rules

  • At the beginning of the school year, establish the class rules.
  • Discuss Classroom rules with the students and consequences of misbehavior.
  • Post room rules and consequences of misbehavior.

Students’ Seating

The way the students are seated in the classroom will often determine the dynamics of the lesson. Indeed, a simple change in the seating pattern can make an incredible difference to group coherence and student satisfaction.

In many cases the seating has been a crucial element in the success or failure of the lesson.
In some cases, the desks are fixed to the ground or the school has strict rules about not moving the furniture.

Student numbers are also going to be an issue.

Teachers have different preferences for seating arrangements – each group is seated round small tables is often one choice. This is probably the best option for the larger classes.

For smaller numbers and with adult or teenage students I think the horseshoe shape, which I find has all of the advantages of groups, and none of the disadvantages. A horseshoe may be desks in a U-shape with a hollow centre, students in a semicircle on chairs with arm-rests and no desks, or students seated around three sides of a large table, with the teacher at one end.

In any case, whatever seating pattern you choose or is imposed on you, the class is likely to be more successful if you keep the following principles in mind:

Try and maximize eye contact.

Make sure students are seated at a comfortable distance from each other.

Think in advance about how you will organize changing partners or changing groups.

Students’ Names

  • Make two sets of name tags – one for the child’s table space or desk, and one for the child to wear around the neck to special classes.
  • Hang name tags on a hook by the door.
  • Make it private: call to desk, whisper, nonverbal cues.
  • Briefly talk to student/assess penalties.
  • Time out at desk or another room.
  • Communicate positive expectations to students: convey confidence in students’ ability to do well and maintain high expectations.

Teacher Talk & Drawing Attention

  • Don’t speak when children aren’t listening and ready. Wait.
  • Establish a signal for getting the group’s attention:

  1. turn off the lights
  2. clap a pattern with your hands
  3. Say “Freeze!” and everyone halts right where they are, like a statue. Then say “Melt!” when you are ready for them to move again.
  • Practice numbers, in the beginning, even when children are doing well, just so they get the idea of how to respond to your signals. Then praise them.

Example: “One, two, three

eyes on me”

  • Establish good listening habits for story time. Sometimes we read and listen, and sometimes we read and discuss, but we always listen.

Giving Instruction

  • It is better to make your instructions for primary students precise and concise.
  • Use puppets to help with classroom management. Puppets can whisper in the teacher’s ear, and they can write messages to the class.
  • Compliment leadership in students. “Oh, I like the way Antonio is ready!” will cause everyone to turn to look at the ready student and to get ready also.
  • Use the same standards for everyone – no favorites!

Using Pair and Groupwork

  • One of the successful ways, if the teacher is resourceful and skilful enough, to motivate his/her students to participate in the lesson is to use “pair work” or “Group work” appropriately.

Language is best learned through the close collaboration and communication among students. This type of collaboration results in benefits for all or both learners. In fact, learners can help each other while working on different types of tasks such as writing dialogues, interviews, drawing pictures and making comments about them, play roles, etc…

Setting Time Limits

1) You should set time to each activity when you are planning your lesson so that you would know if you would be able to finish your objectives or not.

2) You should tell your students about the time assigned for each activity when you give them a task to do in class.

3) Your students should gradually be aware of the importance of the time issue and respect it.

Role Play

  • This is a technique to vary the pace of the lesson and to respond to the fundamental notion of variety in teaching. Teachers are advised to use the role- play activity in order to motivate their students and to help the less motivated learners take part in the lesson. Besides, certain tasks in the student’s book are followed by a role- play activity where it becomes a necessity to undergo such an activity. As good examples of that we can state: the hide (item) and guessing game, dramatizing an interview of customer and shop assistant, doctor and patient conversation, etc…

Tasks for Early Finishers

  • This especially happens when students finish an assignment while other students are still working on it. That’s why you need to include an “early finisher” activity with every assignment.
  • Think in advance for possible activities, options including extension activities related to the current topic, journal writing, silent reading, and educational games

Whole Class Feedback

  • Take a look at the following classroom exchange:

Whole class: He bought a sandwich. (Sea of noise in which the teacher hears the answer)
Teacher: And number 4?
Whole class: He drank orange juice. (Sea of noise in which the teacher hears the answer)

  • Sound familiar? How many times have you done feedback like this? Probably many. Why do we fall into the pattern of getting feedback in this way? Is it the easiest way? The quickest?
  • I began to realize that generally it was only the stronger or the more confident students who would shout out the answers. When I looked at individual student’s work, I saw that they didn’t always have the correct answer and, more importantly, they didn’t know what the correct answer was.
  • Feedback is better checked through each student’s response on a written form paper.

Using Whiteboard

Make sure students easily see the board.

Have your lesson objectives clear for your students. Write them on the board or get the kids to know them at the beginning – by the end of this lesson I will have learned……

These clear objectives provide a guide to what you want to achieve and can be the basis of the lesson structure. A map on the board can help to show the kids where you are going with the lesson.

Cole and Chan ( 1987), cited by Gary Sturt http://www.garysturt.free-online.co.uk/classman.htm

Elementary Classroom Management Survival Tips

Greenwood and Parkay (1989), cited by Gary Sturt http://www.garysturt.free-online.co.uk/classman.htm

One stop english http://www.onestopenglish.com/section.asp?docid=146446

Prepared by Noamen Amara

2. Speak only when students are quiet and ready: This golden nugget was given to me by a 20-year veteran when I was in my first year. She told me that I should just wait and then wait some more until all students were quiet.

So I tried it; I fought the temptation to talk. Sometimes I’d wait much longer than I thought I could hold out for. Slowly but surely, the students would cue each other: “Shh, she’s trying to tell us something,” “Come on, stop talking,” and “Hey guys, be quiet.” They did all the work for me.

My patience paid off. Yours will too. And you’ll get to keep your voice.

3. Use hand signals and other nonverbal communication: Holding one hand in the air and making eye contact with students is a great way to quiet the class and get their attention on you. It takes awhile for students to get used to this as a routine, but it works wonderfully. Have them raise their hand along with you until all are up. Then lower yours and talk.

Flicking the lights off and on once to get students’ attention is an oldie but goodie. It could also be something you do routinely to let them know they have three minutes to finish an assignment or clean up, etc.

With younger students, try clapping your hands three times and teaching the children to quickly clap back twice. This is a fun and active way to get their attention and all eyes on you.

4. Address behavior issues quickly—and wisely: Be sure to address an issue between you and a student or between two students as quickly as possible. Bad feelings—on your part or the students’—can so quickly grow from molehills into mountains.

To handle those conflicts wisely, you and the student should step away from the other students, just in the doorway of the classroom perhaps. Wait until after instruction if possible, avoiding interruption of the lesson. Ask naive questions such as, “How might I help you?” Don’t accuse the child of anything. Act as if you do care, even if you have the opposite feeling at that moment. The student will usually become disarmed because she might be expecting you to be angry and confrontational.

If you must address bad behavior during your instruction, always take a positive approach. Say, “It looks like you have a question” rather than, “Why are you off task and talking?”

When students have conflicts with each other, arrange for them to meet with you at lunch or after or before school. Use neutral language as you act as a mediator, helping them resolve the problem peacefully or at least reach an agreeable truce.

5. Always have a well-designed, engaging lesson: This tip is most important of all. Perhaps you’ve heard that if you don’t have a plan for them, they’ll have one for you. Always overplan. It’s better to run out of time than to run short on a lesson.

From my own firsthand experience and after many classrooms observations, there’s one thing I know for sure: Bored students equal trouble! If the lesson is poorly planned, there is often way too much talking and telling from the teacher and not enough hands-on learning and discovery by the students. We all know engaging lessons take both a serious mind and time to plan. And they are certainly worth it—for many reasons.

About discipline

Discipline is helping your child learn how to behave – as well as how not to behave. It works best when you have a warm and loving relationship with your child.

Discipline doesn’t mean punishment. In fact, discipline and discipline strategies are positive. They’re built on talking and listening, and they guide children towards:

  • knowing what behaviour is appropriate, whether it’s at home, a friend’s house, child care, preschool or school
  • managing their own behaviour and developing important skills like the ability to get along well with others
  • learning to understand, manage and express their feelings.

Choosing an approach to discipline

Choosing an approach to discipline is about finding the right balance.

Not enough discipline can leave children feeling insecure and parents feeling out of control. Too much negative discipline, and not enough praise and rewards, might get children behaving well, but out of fear. This can lead to problems with children’s self-esteem and anxiety later in life.

Discipline works best when it’s firm but fair. This means you set limits and consequences for your child’s behaviour, while also encouraging good behaviour with praise, rewards and other strategies.

Your approach to discipline will also depend on things like your parenting style, your child’s stage of development and your child’s temperament.

Physical punishment – for example, smacking – doesn’t teach children how to behave. When parents use physical punishment, children are more likely to have challenging behaviour, anxiety or depression. There’s also a risk that smacking might hurt your child.

Discipline at different ages

The ways that you use discipline will change depending on what’s happening for your child at different stages of development.

Babies do things to test their developing skills. They also enjoy making things happen. For example, your baby probably likes getting a reaction when he pulls your hair.

But babies don’t understand consequences. They also don’t know the difference between right and wrong.

This means that negative consequences, or punishment, don’t work for babies.

Instead, babies need warm, loving care so they feel secure. So when your baby pulls your hair, you might say ‘no’ and show him how to touch your hair gently. You’ll probably need to do this over and over again because your baby might not remember from one time to the next.

Our Baby Cues video guide helps you to work out what your baby is trying to tell you through her behaviour and body language.

Toddlers often struggle with big feelings like frustration and anger. Their social and emotional skills are only just starting to develop, and they might be testing out their growing independence.

You can help your child behave well by tuning in to his feelings, changing the environment, distracting him and planning ahead for challenging situations. Our tips and tools for toddler behaviour management explain these and other discipline strategies.

From the age of three years, most preschoolers start to understand what’s acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. They’ll test out different behaviours, and they might behave in certain ways more than once as they learn about consequences. You can help your preschooler by setting boundaries and being clear about the behaviour you want to see.

Our tips and tools for preschooler behaviour management have information on tailoring discipline strategies to your child’s behaviour.

School-age children
School-age children might know how to behave in different places – for example, school, home or the library. But they still need you to remind them of the limits and reward them for good behaviour.

Our tips and tools for school-age behaviour management take you through ways to use discipline with your child.

In Australia, most teachers have positive strategies for managing challenging behaviour in the classroom and playground. If you’re worried about your child’s behaviour, talking with your child’s teacher is a great first step.

Four steps towards discipline and better child behaviour

Clear expectations for your child’s behaviour are the foundation of discipline for your child. Here’s how to get started.

1. Decide on family rules
A good place to start is with 4-5 family rules. For example, your family rules might be things like:

  • We speak nicely to each other.
  • We look after other people.
  • Everyone helps out around the house.
  • We look after our own belongings.

Children as young as three can help you make the rules and talk about why your family needs them.

2. Be a role model for the behaviour you expect
Children learn by watching what you do. Showing your child the behaviour you like by doing it yourself will help your child learn. For example, if you want your child to sit down to eat, sitting down together to eat family meals can help children learn this behaviour.

3. Praise your child for good behaviour
Praise is when you tell your child what you like about her or her behaviour. When your child gets praise for behaving well, she’s likely to want to keep behaving well.

Descriptive praise is when you tell your child exactly what it is that you like. It’s best for encouraging good behaviour. For example, ‘Ali, I really like how you used please and thank you just then. Great manners!’

4. Set clear limits and consequences
Decide on a consequence for breaking a family rule. For example, if your eight-year-old hasn’t done his household chores, the consequence might be the loss of pocket money for the week.

When you use consequences in the same way and for the same behaviour every time, your child knows what to expect.

8 Strategies for Dealing with a Defiant Child

When a child acts out and demonstrates defiant behavior, there is usually a reason behind it. Whether it’s just looking for attention, testing boundaries, or frustration about school or social life, taking the time to understand why your child is acting out is often a big part of the solution.

There are circumstances, however, when this behavior is the result of a more serious condition known as Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or another more significant emotional issue. But in the absence of these more serious ailments, the average child will most definitely test your limits while growing up.

The following strategies have helped me with my own brood. And it’s not a coincidence that there are 8 strategies here – one for each of my 8 kids!

By following these techniques, you too can survive these maddening moments of defiance:

  1. Hold your child accountable
  2. Choose your battles
  3. Act, don’t react
  4. Enforce age-appropriate consequences
  5. Keep your power
  6. No second chances or bargaining
  7. Always build on the positive
  8. Set regular times to talk to your child

Strategy 1: Hold Your Child Accountable

Children of all ages need to know the family rules for everything from helping out with chores, to completing homework, to bedtime and curfews, to acceptable behavior toward others. The time to discuss these matters is when things are going well, not after an incident has occurred. Sit down with your kids and let them know what types of behaviors you will not tolerate in your family. List examples of unacceptable behaviors such as treating others with disrespect, being fresh or rude, name calling, refusing to do chores or homework, mistreating possessions, hitting, biting, or any other physical aggression.

You cannot expect your child, regardless of age, to be compliant if he doesn’t know your expectations. Holding your child accountable does not result in a child who is obedient 100% of the time, but it does mean that you set the limits, and you provide a consequence when your child decides to break the rules—period! The goal is not to prevent your child from ever breaking the rules but to teach him, preferably at a young age, that when rules are broken consequences follow.

Strategy 2: Choose Your Battles

Parenting is exhausting enough when things are going well, but when one of your children is purposefully misbehaving, the difficulties are multiplied. So choose how you spend your energy wisely! For instance, if your high schooler wants to wear pants that are too big because that’s the style, do you really need to start the day off on a negative note by hassling him over poor fashion choices?

On the other hand, if he tells you that he isn’t going to school because he doesn’t feel like it—that’s just not going to fly. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my 18 years of parenting is that you can’t change your child unless you change your attitude first, which brings us to #3…

Strategy 3: Act, Don’t React

When you witness defiant behavior from your child, don’t get angry and lose your temper. Instead, take a step back and calmly tell your child that you don’t approve of the behavior and that you will handle it at a later time. This will raise a sense of fear in your child’s mind because he’ll have time to think about the poor actions and the potential consequences. Not only are you using the time to calm yourself down, but you’re also teaching your kids how to do the same.

Strategy 4: Enforce Age-Appropriate Consequences

Effective consequences can largely be grouped into two categories: removals and impositions. A “removal” is taking something away from the child, such as your attention, an exciting environment, or a pleasant activity. The most well-known and widely-used removal is a time out. Other effective removals are: Grounding your child from social activities, taking away electronics for a certain period of time, immediately leaving the park, a friend’s house, or a family party when a defiant behavior occurs.

“Impositions” are consequences that impose a new situation upon the child. Paying his own money into a family “fine” jar, doing extra chores, having to run errands with mom because he abused the privilege to stay home alone by inviting friends over without permission—these are impositions. Without question, effective strategies for consequences require a lot of time and energy to enforce. But if you don’t follow through with consequences for bad behavior, you send the message: If you wear me down, you’ll get your way. Bad idea!

We took the time to write our rules and their respective consequences on a poster board which we have framed and hanging in our home. This way, there’s never a question as to our expectations.

Strategy 5: Keep Your Power

When you engage in an argument with your child, you’re just giving them more power over the situation. In effect, you’re enforcing the child’s perception that they have the power to challenge you, which can lead to even more defiant behavior. The next time your child tries to draw you into a power struggle over something just say, “We’ve discussed what is going to happen if you do this. I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” and leave the room. When you leave, you take all the power with you. Know that the more you engage your child in an argument, the more control you’re giving away.

Strategy 6: No Second Chances or Bargaining

Consistency is key if you don’t want to reinforce bad habits. Once your child is old enough to understand that behaviors have consequences, don’t give him repeat chances. This just teaches him that you aren’t serious and he can get away with this behavior a few more times because he knows you won’t take your own rules seriously.

If your son calls his friend’s mother a “fat butt” when you arrive for a play date, you firmly say “You know we don’t talk like that. We’re going home now so you can spend some time thinking about what you said,” and leave immediately after he apologizes. Do not bargain with your child, don’t offer ice cream or money in return for better behavior. This is possibly the most damaging thing a parent or caregiver can do. You are only enabling the poor behavior and can count on much worse in the future because they’re going to see how far they can push you before you strike another bargain.

Strategy 7: Always Build on the Positive

Make sure that you build on the positive attitudes and actions of your children. Praise your children for their positive behaviors, like rewarding them when they show a cooperative attitude. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in raising a responsible child.

Strategy 8: Set Regular Times to Talk to Your Child

In a moment of downtime, when things are going well and you don’t anticipate an immediate power struggle, sit down with your child and let her know that you take your job as her parent very seriously and your intentions are to keep her safe and help her grow into a responsible, productive, self-reliant adult who will be as happy and fulfilled in life as possible. Remind her that your family has rules and values that are in place for her future, not to cause her grief while growing up.

Do you have a defiant child? How are you handling his/her behavior? Let me know in the comments or post it on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at [email protected]

Check back next week for more Mighty Mommy tips. Don’t forget to check out my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com. I hope you have an easygoing week and as always—Happy Parenting!

Mother talking with Daughter, Angry Girl and Mother Praising Son images courtesy of

4. Play helps children make friends and learn to get along with each other as equals.

Social play is a natural means of making friends and learning to treat one another fairly. Since play is voluntary and playmates may abandon the game at any time if they feel uncomfortable, children learn to be aware of their playmates’ needs and attempt to meet them in order to maintain the play.

Gray believes that “learning to get along and cooperate with others as equals may be the most crucial evolutionary function of human social play … and that social play is nature’s means of teaching young humans that they are not special. Even those who are more skilled at the game’s actions … must consider the needs and wishes of the others as equal to their own, or else the others will exclude them.” Gray cites increasing social isolation as a potential precursor to psychopathology and notes that the decline in play may be “both a consequence and a cause of the increased social isolation and loneliness in the culture.”

5. Most importantly, play is a source of happiness.

When children are asked about the activities that bring them happiness, they say they are happier when playing with friends than in any other situation. Perhaps you felt this way when remembering your own childhood play experiences at the beginning of this article.

Gray sees the loss of play time as a double whammy: we have not only taken away the joys of free play, we have replaced them with emotionally stressful activities. “s a society, we have come to the conclusion that to protect children from danger and to educate them, we must deprive them of the very activity that makes them happiest and place them for ever more hours in settings where they are more or less continually directed and evaluated by adults, setting almost designed to produce anxiety and depression.”


There has been a significant increase in anxiety and depression from 1950 to present day in teens and young adults and Gray cites several studies documenting this rise. One showed that five to eight times as many children and college students reported clinically significant depression or anxiety than 50 years ago and another documented a similar trend in the fourteen- to sixteen-year-old age group between 1948 and 1989.

Suicide rates quadrupled from 1950 to 2005 for children less than fifteen years and for teens and young adults ages 15-25, they doubled. Gray believes that the loss of unstructured, free play for play’s sake is at the core of this alarming observation and that as a society, we should reassess the role of free play and the factors that seem to have all but eliminated it from our children’s lives.

When parents realize the major role that free play can take in the development of emotionally healthy children and adults, they may wish to reassess the priorities ruling their children’s lives. The competing needs for childcare, academic and athletic success, and children’s safety are compelling. But perhaps parents can begin to identify small changes — such as openings in the schedule, backing off from quite so many supervised activities, and possibly slightly less hovering on the playground that would start the pendulum returning to the direction of free, imaginative, kid-directed play.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

This article originally appeared on TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to [email protected]

Esther Entin, M.D., is a pediatrician and clinical associate professor of Family Medicine at Brown University’s Warren Alpert School of Medicine. She writes for TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com.

Out Of Control Kids: This Is The #1 Mistake Parents Make When Arguing With Kids

  • Listen With Full Attention: Everyone needs to feel understood. The big mistake is thinking kids are any different.
  • Acknowledge Their Feelings: Paraphrase what they said. Don’t say you understand, show them you do.
  • Give Their Feelings A Name: “Sounds like you feel this is unfair.” It calms the brain.
  • Ask Questions: You want to resolve their underlying emotional needs, not get into a logical debate.

Certainly there are going to be situations where you don’t always have the time (or the patience) to go through all the steps. It’s not easy. But by listening and focusing on feelings you can make a big difference.

And these principles can work with everyone in your life. Most human needs and feelings are universal.

In fact, clinical psychologist Al Bernstein recommends talking to every angry person like they’re a child:

People say to me all the time, “You mean I have to treat a grown-up like a three-year-old?” I say, “Yes, absolutely.”

Feelings are messy and so we avoid them. But when it comes to the ones we love we often forget that, in the end, feelings are really all that matter.

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5 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Anger

Whether because of not getting a snack he wants or fighting with a playmate over a toy, even young children get angry at times. And while anger itself isn’t good or bad, the way a child deals with anger can be constructive or destructive. As a parent, it might be tempting to send a child to his room for acting out in anger or to yell at him to stop being mad. But it’s better for your child if you help him develop the ability to cope well with anger. Here are some strategies to use.

  1. Talk it out. Calmly ask your child to explain what has caused her to become so angry. Talking through the issue can help some children work through the anger and calm down. If your child doesn’t want to discuss it with you, she may feel comfortable “talking” to a pet, puppet, or imaginary friend.
  2. Get physical. Kids can let off some steam by stomping their feet, punching a pillow, or pulling, twisting, or pounding on clay. Dancing around or taking a walk may also help. Encouraging a child to do things he enjoys — drawing, walking the dog, reading — can also help refocus his thoughts away from anger.
  3. Give comfort and affection. Let your little one know that you genuinely care about his situation and feelings. Toddlers can be comforted by your physical presence as can older kids facing a frustrating situation. And never underestimate the power of a hug to make a child feel loved and accepted.
  4. Set a good example. Children mimic adults so the way you handle your own anger and frustration is sure to affect your child. Model positive coping skills — like doing something that calms you or getting away from a frustrating situation — and your child is likely to do the same.
  5. Praise good behavior. Let your child know that you notice when she deals with her anger in a positive way.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child’s condition.

  • By Kristen Finello

Healthy Kid

Picture yourself driving down the road, your favorite music coming from the radio, each highway mile moving you further away from your troubles, and then, from the backseat a howl of pain, “He hit me,” your child’s voice pops your balloon of peace with a cry like an ice pick. “She’s making those noises again,” comes the reply. A thought enters your head, “If they only had a “kid control” button in this car instead of a cruise control, I would have paid double the price.” Indeed, having more control might allow you to drive from point A to point B without a brawl from the booster seats, and control would also let you finish a phone call without interruption, or get your sixth grader to the homework table in less than a half-hour. If control is that important a part of parenting, why can’t we somehow find more of it? In this article, we look at the reasons why control is so challenging and elusive in most parenting situations, and approaches that can lead to a greater degree of control.

First, let’s recognize that parents might be evenly divided when the word control is mentioned. Around half of us immediately feel a sense of suffocation or a feeling that an overcontrolled child becomes intolerant of themselves and others. We think of the first grade teacher that hands out only brown, green, and blue crayons during nature drawing class because those are the only colors she can see in nature. In this view, control seems like a repressive stick. The other half of us might wonder why other parents can’t see where the lack of child control has brought us as a society. In this view, the key to adult self-control is through appropriate control applied by parents; its a way of helping children understand that the world is filled with real consequences, and happiness comes from recognizing and avoiding those consequences. The good news is that both sides are right, and of course, the bad news is that both sides are wrong.

Most of the misunderstanding comes from our trouble remembering 1) that we cannot control children, we can only control situations and 2) that relationship factors are as important as rewards and punishments in how children respond to control.

More about that later, let’s look at what parenting researchers tell us about the issue. The most credible research in this area comes from Baumrind’s studies of parenting style (1991), and additional research by Maccoby and Martin (1983). According to Baumrind, there are three basic parenting styles that lead to predictable outcomes:

1) Authoritarian Style – These parents follow the “because I said so” rule, and place a premium on obedience. They are strict in enforcing rules, and focus on punishment as the most effective consequence. The child’s feelings are secondary to maintaining authority and obedience in the home. Children of authoritarian parents, indeed, become “good” adults that know how to obey, but they tend to lack social competence and overall happiness.

2) Authoritative Style – These parents set rules and expectations just like authoritarian parents, but are more responsive to the child’s reactions and feelings. Goals and rules are presented in a positive light, rather than as standards that should cause kids to tremble. Authoritarian parents balance negative conseqeuences with positive discipline, and can offer forgiveness when it is appropriate. Children of authoritative parents earn respect from their children that translates into later measures of happiness, capability, and work success.

3. Permissive Indulgent Style – These parents might view it as limiting to set expectations and rules on children. They might feel that children will naturally choose good behavior over bad when left on their own. In truth, permissive parents can sometimes fear conflict with their children and seek “friend” status rather than deal with the risk of battling with an angry child. Not surprisingly, children who are raised in this style struggle with self-control and have the poorest outcome in measures of adult functioning.

Now, remember the two factors that help set the stage for effective parent control? That was the part about controlling situations, and relationships as important as rewards or punishments. On the surface, it looks like Authoritarian parents have the most parental control. After all, their kids don’t talk back, don’t challenge authority, and don’t punch each other in the arm at the dinner table. Rigidly authoritarian parents often mistake over control of children as control over the situation. The problem with this mechanism of control is that it often translates into fear of authority as kids enter adulthood rather than a true sense of internal, self-control. Another problem is that the ratio of negative to positive consequences is often about 4 to 1, meaning children gain much more experience in avoiding punishment than they spend time striving for positive consequences. On the other end of the spectrum, highly Permissive-Indulgent parents often don’t have skill in using situation-control tools such as an authoritative voice, controlling praise and attention, or planning ahead to control situational problems. Permissive parents find themselves throwing up their hands and feeling defeated because it seems like gaining control is a lost battle. And when the situation starts to fail for either authoritarian parents or permissive parents, they often find themselves falling back on yelling as a means of control, doling out extreme consequences like 6-month-long time outs, or using power threats (like, “wait till we’re not in public and you’ll see what you get for this behavior”).

Authoritative parents seem to be the most skilled at controlling situations in order to develop kid controls, and also know how to effectively use both postive and negative relationship consequences to get the outcome they are looking for. What do Authoritative parents do differently:

1) They recognize that the situation is like steering a boat on water much more than steering a car on land, that is, kids will move in the direction of situational control over time if enough situational elements are applied, but might not change immediately.

2) Authoritative parents know that relationship tools such as providing positive attention and praise as well as corrective messages and negative consequences are more effective than other kinds of rewards and punishments such as spanking or passively trying to reason with an agitated, angry child. Authoritative parents also seem to recognize that parental respect, that thing we all wish we had more of from our children, is created by giving meaningful and achievable behavioral challenges to children balanced by clear and honest feedback and negative consequences when a bad behavioral choice is made. The main point that Authoritative parents get and that we need to remember is that control will happen over time if we take time to plan out and consistently try out new tools when our old efforts do not work.

In this way of seeing things, we don’t have to think of control as such a negative thing, perhaps like the way it was applied in our own childhoods, and we can redefine what it means in relation to our own kids. Lets apply some of these concepts to these very real and very common situations where control becomes a primary issue:

Back Seat Back-and-Forth – What is it about the back seats of the minivan that brings out the “inner irritator” in children? There are two reasons that this situation tends to rob us of situational control. First, time is usually not on your side. Given the pressure to get to the destination, it is understandable that we tell ourselves, “If I can only make it to where I’m going, I’ll be able to stop the arguing then.” Second, confining a child to a small space naturally triggers arguments over territory and attention. To reduce battles in the bucket-seats, try offering complements and positive attention to the one who is behaving the best (a tool we call “differential rewards for positive behavior), even if it’s only for a few moments of good behavior. It’s also helpful to give children a job to do while they are stuck in the back seat. Any job will do, even if it’s counting exits on the highway until you reach yours. Bring a street map, mark your starting and ending points with stars, and see if they can spot any of the streets mentioned along the way.

More Kids = More Noise – This sounds like an old proverb, “One parent can never catch two children running in opposite directions.” Children wear away at situational controls by moving quickly, doing things over and over, and by doing many negative behaviors in a short period of time. The more kids in the picture, the situation can quickly double or triple in its intensity. Instead of being worn down both in energy and authority by “putting out every fire” that flares up, choose only one or two under-controlled behaviors to work on at a time. For example, only work on running away from a parent in the grocery store or a child going into a brother or sister’s room to start a fight, but don’t try to change five other behaviors at the same time. The greatest power you have when you are outnumbered by children (even if it is just by 2 kids) is your greater ability to plan ahead. Try taking some time away from the situation and mapping out strategies to try the next time, like planning an extra ten minutes into the trip to the store that can be used to take kids to the side of the store to wait until their behavior is back in control, or controlling the TV situation by patiently holding the actual plug to the device in the air until the bickering stops.

With some of these ideas in mind, any parent can reset the balance of control in their household as long as they are willing to take a step back, look in the mirror at their own feelings about control, and try to adjust where adjustments are needed.