Age-Appropriate Discipline

Child disciplinePositive parenting and discipline go hand in hand and for discipline to achieve constructive results and to have the right impact parents will need to decide on discipline that is age appropriate. Discipline that works well for a mischievous three-year old, will have little or no effect on a boisterous six-year old and more than just being suited to the child’s age, parents will also need to implement consequences that suit the personality or nature of a child.

For instance, there are some kids who may find that being banished to their rooms is no punishment at all. They find the time out welcoming but for a child who is an extrovert by nature and who loves to be at the centre of activity – a time out in their room, or if they are removed from the hub of activity – this seemingly -harsh’ consequence will force them to reconsider their behaviour. To this end, parents will need to find the most effective ways to regulate and rectify their child’s negative behaviour and implement discipline can match the character of their child.


Discipline for the terrible 2s and trying 3s

From the age of two, discipline plays an important and very vital role in the child’s development. At this age, children ought to be made aware of boundaries and time should be taken to help kids to remain within the boundaries. Although most two-year olds and certainly three-year olds have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, a two-year old will defy instructions and authority and touch objects and items which are off bounds. At the age of two, children are learning about the world around them and for the most part, they are exploring their new surroundings, and what’s more they are also testing the water and discovering just how far their parents will allow them to go (hence the importance of setting limits at this age).

Discipline might include a time out, and words used must be kind but firm. It is pointless trying to reason with a toddler and trying to provide them with a logical reason why they should not be doing something – a simple answer is sufficient, such as -Mommy said no! . From this point forth, discipline must be consistent and even though parents are often ready to throw in the towel and let a temperamental or moody two-year old win the battle, parents have to stand their ground and remain firm and constant.

The dreaded temper tantrums are common with this age group and experts recommend that this negative behaviour be treated with the two -I’s – Isolate and Ignore.  Respond by giving the child a 2 or 3 minute time out and walk away.

Parenting is all about teaching and educating and moms and dads will need to work together to decide on what rules will need to be enforced and at what age. Safety is usually the primary concern. When rules are broken, corrective action needs to be taken and a time out or time alone for 2 or 3 minutes will help to convey the message.


Discipline for the enquiring 4 year old and feisty 5 year old

At the ages of 4 and 5, kids have well-developed verbal skills and they can efficiently verbalise their needs, their likes and dislikes. Between the age of 4 and 5, kids want a lot more independence and they want to dress themselves and do far more for themselves than toddlers. This age group is well aware of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and their self-control is increasing. However, yearning for independence and yearning to be seen as a -big boy or girl’, kids of this age test the boundaries.

Children at this age also have strong attachments to toys, games, etc. and an effective consequence for inappropriate behaviour is to remove privileges and restrict the use of a toy or game for a certain length of time. Explain carefully to the child what their transgression was and clarify that the object will be returned as well as the conditions that it will be returned on.

At this age, kids have developed reasoning skills and a child will quickly realise the consequences of their actions. Parents are reminded not to fold in and will need to remind themselves that positive parenting requires consistency.

Star charts work well from the age of 3 or 4 and moms and dads can also use the star charts to reward kids for good behaviour, or for an activity that has been completed well. Earning several negative marks on the chart may indicate a loss of a privilege or an exclusion from a fun family activity, such as sitting out for a game, etc.

Time outs or time alone is still effective at this age, and the child should be given a time out for no more than 5 minutes (or 4 minutes for the four-year old). Give a child a few warnings (no more than 3) before action is taken.

Consistent discipline requires dedication and hard work and even though parents may feel that discipline is cruel and unkind, it is a very necessary part of parenting and without discipline a child will never learn what behaviour is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Discipline is not to be seen in a negative light but for a child to thrive and succeed, discipline plays a critically important role.

Childcare experts are in full agreement that discipline need not be harsh or unkind, and verbal abuse, shouting or hidings generally have little effect on a child who is acting up. Whereas positive and consistent discipline, such as time outs, or taking away privileges will have a far greater impact on the child.

Let’s face it, dealing with a rowdy two-year old or a fiery and independent five-year old is not always easy and if parents feel that they are unable to control their own tempers, the best advice is to the two -I’s isolate and ignore. If necessary, walk away, take a few deep breaths and try to diffuse the situation using a positive approach and discipline which is age appropriate. Trying to deal with an unruly three-year old is particularly trying but an angry parent will make matters worse.

Love your children enough to show them the difference between right and wrong!


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