How do you keep a 1-year-old from heading toward the VCR? What should you do when your preschooler throws a fit? How can you get your adolescent to respect your authority? Let’s explore how to vary your approach to discipline to best fit your family. First of all, whatever the age of your child, it's important to be consistent in disciplining your child. If you don't stick to the rules and consequences that you set up, your child isn't likely to either.
Let’s start by taking a look at your 0 to 2 year old. Knowing that babies and toddlers of this age are naturally curious, it's a good idea to keep your young child's environment relatively free of no-nos - items such as VCRs, stereos, jewelry, and especially cleaning supplies and medications should be kept well out of his reach. When your crawling baby or roving toddler heads toward an unacceptable or dangerous play object, calmly say, "No," and redirect your child by either removing him or her from the area or engaging your child's attention with an appropriate activity.
Timeouts can be effective discipline for toddlers. A child who has been hitting, biting, or throwing food, for example, should be told why that behavior is unacceptable and taken to a designated timeout area - a kitchen chair or bottom stair - for a minute or two to calm down (longer timeouts are not effective for toddlers). It's important to not spank, hit, or slap a child of any age. Babies and toddlers are especially unlikely to be able to make any connection between their behavior and physical punishment. They will only feel the pain of the hit.
And don't forget, kids learn by watching adults, particularly their parents. Make sure your behavior is role-model material. You will make a much stronger impact on your child if he sees you putting your belongings away, too, rather than if you just tell him or her to pick up the toys while you leave your stuff strewn across the kitchen counter.
There is perhaps no more controversial form of discipline than spanking. Here are some reasons why the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to avoid spanking: Spanking teaches children that it's OK to hit when they're angry. Spanking can physically harm children. Rather than teaching children how to change their behavior, spanking makes them fearful of their parents and teaches them merely to avoid getting caught.
In the case of children who are looking for attention by acting out, spanking may inadvertently "reward" children by giving them attention - negative attention is better than no attention at all.