• You’re being really bad today!
• Don’t you ever do that again!
• You ought to be ashamed of yourself!
• You better stop that noise or else!
• You’re driving me crazy!
How many times have you heard yourself or a parent say these words to
a child? How many times did you hear these words when you were a child?
As you know, the way you and the parents behave with the children affects
the children’s behavior. It sometimes seems like discipline is about
yelling and negative things. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
The word “discipline” often brings thoughts of punishment
and scolding. The original Latin word related to discipline, though, means
to “educate,” especially in matters of conduct. Childcare
providers and parents are children’s first teachers. This means
that discipline is a basic skill in childcare and parenting.
The type of discipline also changes the way children feel about themselves.
Sometimes people think that the purpose of discipline is to get children
to do the right thing right now. Sometimes that is important. In the long
run, though, the purpose of discipline is to raise responsible, confident
children. Adults want children to grow up to think for themselves. They
want children to learn acceptable behaviors. They also want them to make
wise decisions when they deal with problems.
reach these goals, a child needs to learn. He does not need to be afraid
or feel pain. Studies have shown that physical punishment, such as hitting
or slapping, and verbal abuse, does not work well. Children might learn
what they should not do. But they won’t always learn what they should
do instead. Children need help learning good behavior. This basic idea
is central to effective childrearing. As childcare providers, you can
share this idea with parents. How do you know if a discipline method has
worked? One way to judge is by how well a child has learned. If a child
is doing more of the right things and fewer of the wrong things, it is
When to Talk to Parents About Discipline
• The parents complain that their
child is out of control.
• You see the parents and children
struggling with each other.
• You or the parents threaten the
child all the time, but it does not work.
• You feel that the child does not
listen to you or to his/her parents.
• You feel that the child continually
gets his or her own way.
Positive Ways of Guiding Children
There are several ways to use positive discipline. Several
of those are described in this section.
• One is to understand children and
what to expect.
• Another is to try to prevent the
behavior you do not want.
• A third is to show the children
the right behavior by doing it yourself.
• Using rewards with children is also
a positive discipline method.
• Another is looking for the cause
of the misbehavior and trying to solve the problem.
• Finally, if it is necessary to take
action so that the child learns to stop doing something,
natural and logical consequences
can be very effective.
Understanding What to Expect of Children
Research says that “sensitive” parenting is
possible only when parents know what their children can do and what they
are learning. So it is important for you to know and provide parents with
information about child
development and what
to expect of their children. Know what is normal. This will help parents
to provide for their children’s needs. It also could help to prevent
abuse. For example, it is important to know that preschoolers (3 to 5
years old) like to get attention. They may try to do this by shocking
you by using bad words. This is normal for children at that age. Try to
find positive ways to give them attention instead. And teach them other
words to use. Another example relates to children and quiet. It is not
realistic to expect a young child to sit quietly for long periods of time.
They need to be active and explore. Expect them to sit still for only
Most of the time it is better to stop a problem before it starts than
to fix it later. Make it easier for the children to do the right thing
than the wrong thing. Parents can do that by arranging their day to meet
their children’s needs and their own needs. They can also arrange
their house to help the children behave. Have the parents think about
the setup of their house. Share information with parents about childproofing
their homes. Are important, dangerous, or breakable things in reach? Are
there things that the child may play with? Are there enough toys for the
children? Are there good places to store toys and hang up coats? Parents
can make the home a friendly place for children.
Have you heard a parent say, “Do as I say, not as I do”? Many
adults say that, but children are more likely to do what adults do, not
what they say. Children learn a lot by watching how adults behave. So
it is important to watch yourself and what you do. If the adults do not
eat vegetables, it will be hard to get the children to eat them. If the
adults smoke, the children might try to smoke. If the adults throw things
when they are angry, the children will learn to act that way. Discuss
with parents how they wish their children to behave. Share with them how
appropriate behavior and encourage them to act the way they want their
children to act.
Another thing that parents and caregivers can do to help
children do the right thing is to give them rewards. We talk about “catching
the child being bad.” But parents can “catch them being good”
too. Children need to know when they doing the right thing. Parents can
say something nice, like “I like the way you did that” or
“I am proud of you”. Parents can also spend special time with
their child, give a hug or a smile or praise their child in front of others
to reward him. A reward does not need to be a present.
Many parents are afraid of using rewards. They think it is the same as
bribes. It is important for parents to learn the difference between rewards
and bribes. A bribe is something bigger than it should be. It is promised
before the behavior is completed. It is not something that the child would
usually get. A reward does not need to be a present. It is something that
fits the behavior. It is given after the behavior and often without the
child knowing that it is coming. It can be a hug, a gold star on a chart,
a time alone with a parent, or a compliment. Share information about ways
to reward children and the difference between rewards and bribes with
Find the Cause of Misbehavior
Sometimes it is hard to know why children do what they
do. Sometimes it seems like they want to be bad. That is not true most
of the time, though. Understanding why children misbehave is important.
This will help you and the parents to respond more effectively to them
and their behavior. There may be several reasons why a child is misbehaving.
For example, he might not be feeling well, he might be trying to get attention,
he might be curious or upset. It is not bad to be sick, to want attention,
or to be curious. It is not good to hurt others or to do something dangerous,
though. You can help parents figure out the reason for their child’s
misbehavior by asking them to look for patterns in their child’s
behavior. They can talk to their children about the children‘s feelings.
They could also suggest solutions and see if they sound good to the child.
Discipline is more effective when it matches the needs of the child.
Logical and Natural Consequences
Sometimes parents cannot prevent wrong behavior. Sometimes they need to
do something to teach the child what is wrong and what is right. It helps
if they teach their children the connection between their actions and
the results of their misbehavior. They can use logical and natural consequences
to do that.
Natural consequences are results that naturally happen after a child’s
behavior. The adult does not need to do anything. The situation will take
care of itself. For example, if a child does not eat at mealtime, she
will get hungry later. If she does not play carefully with a toy, she
may break it. Natural consequences work well if the child will care about
the consequence and if the child is not in danger.
Logical consequences are things that the adult manages, but they are related
to the behavior. For example, if the child uses a toy to hit another child,
the adult takes away that toy or makes the child sit on a chair instead
of playing. If the child leaves her bicycle in the driveway, the adult
puts the bike away for a day.
Try some positive methods of discipline. It can make both the adult and
the child feel better. Read more about general
strategies for positive discipline with young children, difference
and positive guidance, and positive methods and language to use with
children. Share these strategies with parents.
to expect from children
reinforcement and rewards
and logical consequences
the causes of misbehavior