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Age can be a factor when disciplining children

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Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 10:24 am, Thu Mar 31, 2011.

Children need a certain level of discipline. But what is the best method of teaching them right from wrong? Depending on your child's age, there are some strategies you can employ.

The Power of "No"

Toddlers can begin to learn the word "no" by saying the word gently and then removing the child from the offensive action. For example, if he or she is about to touch something that is off limits, tell him or her "no" and then move the toddler to a better location. However, too many "no's" can frustrate a child. You must give him or her plenty of activities that are safe and acceptable and try to limit the situations where he or she could get into trouble. If everything is "no," then the child may grow resentful.

Time Outs

As children age, a time out is an effective means to instituting good behavior. When the child misbehaves, he or she is sent to a distraction-free area for a set amount of time, generally one minute per year of age.

Experts say that a warning should be given before the time out. Then if the child misbehaves again, the child is sent to the time out area and told why he or she is there. Setting a timer can ensure that the child has a tangible way of tracking how long he or she is supposed to remain in time out.

Keep in mind that a time out will be ineffective if the child is sent to a place where he or she has access to toys or another amusement. If the child gets up during the time out, he or she should be returned to the spot and the timing starts over again.

Positive Reinforcement

Rewarding good behavior instead of simply punishing bad behavior is a way to instill good traits in children. An idea is to set up a good behavior chart. The child can receive a sticker every time he or she does something that is sticker-worthy, such as completing a chore or doing something Mom or Dad asks. When a set number of stickers or boxes on the chart are filled, a prize is given. This can be a toy, a day out, an extra half hour of playtime; whatever the parents choose.


The spanking debate has strong proponents and opponents. Supporters say that spanking, within reason, can be good for a child. Some supporters argue that as the popularity of spanking has declined, violence, discipline issues and drug use among children has increased. Others say that the discipline method worked for them, so why not for their child?

Opponents to spanking say that the act teaches anger and aggressive behavior and is no more likely to teach responsibility than a time-out or other punishment. It has also been said that children who are spanked are more likely to be depressed, use alcohol, view hitting their spouses as alright, and participate in crimes as an adult.


Whatever form of discipline is used to teach children right from wrong, parents must be consistent in their follow-through. If a child is told he or she will be disciplined, either through a time-out, by having a privilege taken away or another method, the punishment will be ineffective if there is no follow-through. Children will quickly learn that threats are just that … threats.

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