Healthy & Effective Discipline Tips by Age/Stage

​Infants

  • ​Babies learn by watching what you do, so set examples of behavior you expect.
  • Use positive language to guide your baby. For example, say, “Time to sit,” rather than, “Don’t stand.”
  • Save the word, “no,” for the most important issues, like safety. Limit the need to say “no” by putting dangerous or tempting objects out of reach.
  • Distracting and replacing a dangerous or forbidden object with one that is okay to play with is a good strategy at this age.
  • All children, including babies, need consistent discipline, so talk with your partner, family members, and child care provider to set basic rules everyone follows.

​Toddlers

  • ​Your child is starting to recognize what’s allowed and what isn’t but may test some rules to see how you react. Pay attention to and praise behaviors you like and ignore those you want to discourage. Redirect to a different activity when needed.
  • Tantrums can become more common as your child struggles to master new skills and situations. Anticipate tantrum triggers, like being tired or hungry, and help head them off with well-timed naps and meals.
  • Teach your toddler not to hit, bite, or use other aggressive behaviors. Model nonviolent behavior by not spanking your toddler and by handling conflict with your partner in a constructive way.
  • Stay consistent in enforcing limits. Try short time-outs if needed.
  • Acknowledge conflicts between siblings but avoid taking sides. For example, if an argument arises about a toy, the toy can be put away.

Preschool Age

  • ​Preschool-age children are still trying to understand how and why things work and what effect their actions have. As they learn appropriate behavior, expect them to continue testing the limits of parents and siblings.
  • Begin assigning age-appropriate chores, like putting their toys away. Give simple, step-by-step directions. Reward them with praise.
  • Allow your child to make choices among acceptable alternatives, redirecting and setting sensible limits.
  • Teach your child to treat others as she wants to be treated.
  • Explain that it’s OK to feel mad sometimes, but not to hurt someone or break things. Teach them how to deal with angry feelings in positive ways, like talking about it.
  • To resolve conflicts, use time-outs or remove the source of conflict.

​Gradeschool-Age Children

  • ​Your child is beginning to get a sense of right and wrong. Talk about the choices they have in difficult situations, what are the good and bad options, and what might come next depending on how they decide to act.
  • Talk about family expectations and reasonable consequences for not following family rules.
  • Provide a balance of privileges and responsibility, giving children more privileges when they follow rules of good behavior.
  • Continue to teach and model patience, concern and respect for others.
  • Don’t let yourself or others use physical punishment. If you live in an area where corporal punishment is allowed in schools, you have the right to say that your child may not be spanked.

​Adolescents & Teens

  • ​As your teen develops more independent decision-making skills, you’ll need to balance your unconditional love and support with clear expectations, rules, and boundaries.
  • Continue to show plenty of affection and attention. Make time every day to talk. Young people are more likely to make healthy choices if they stay connected with family members.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends and talk about responsible and respectful relationships.
  • Acknowledge your teen’s efforts, achievements, and success in what they do―and don’t do. Praise the choice to avoid using tobacco, e-cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs. Set a good example through your own responsible use of alcohol and other substances.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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