Set Guidelines for Good Behavior
If you're a parent or guardian, you may be caught in a cycle of broken rules, punishment and bad behavior. Setting rules and guidelines for the children in your care helps them learn safe, healthy and socially acceptable behavior. Use these tips for fair, effective discipline techniques.
Plan ahead - review your expectations.
How do you want children to behave when they're at home, in public? Make a list of the behavior you expect, and then prioritize. Safe and healthy behavior should be the most important. Punishment for breaking the rules should fit the "crime" – neither too harsh nor too lenient.
Be clear – discuss your expectations.
Be specific and direct. Let children know exactly what you expect, how you want them to behave at home and in public. Encourage discussion. Listen to what they have to say. Help them understand why you are setting certain rules. You may have a second set of household rules for when non-custodial stepchildren visit. If so, involve them in the rule-making (and breaking) discussion. If you're on good terms with your partner's ex, send him or her a copy of your rules.
Be consistent, but be flexible.
Don't punish one instance of bad behavior one week, then ignore it the next. This sends confusing messages. Your child may learn that the severity (and punishment) of the incident varies with the mood you're in! Allow yourself to be flexible and fair. Sometimes, a child may break the rules for good reason -- hear him out before you render punishment.
Wouldn't the world be a better place if people took responsibility for their own actions, or inactions? Certainly. Start with yourself – your child's number one role model. Kids learn more from your example than your instruction. Acknowledge when you've made a mistake and apologize. Your child will learn honesty and humility.
Recognize and reward good behavior.
Catch your child exhibiting good behavior then find ways to meaningfully recognize and reward it. Leave thank you notes on a pillow. Extend curfew by 30 minutes. Increase allowance. Hand out free movie tickets. Remember to explain exactly what action you are recognizing and why – your appreciation may be one of the nicest rewards of all.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Runaway Switchboard.
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