Every child is unique, yes. As such, each child must also be disciplined using a technique that works best for him. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula on how to keep your child in line, there are a lot of theories that claim to be effective or most beneficial for kids. Most parents don’t believe in spanking, giving timeouts, or punishing their child. Others swear by positively talking to their child and explaining why what they did was not wrong. But have you ever wondered which discipline technique works best?
According to science, it’s a combination of several of these techniques.
In a recent study, researchers asked 102 mothers on how they discipline their toddlers for hitting, whining, defiance, negotiating, or not listening. They found the top three discipline tactics that work.
Offering compromises were the most effective for cooperative tots regardless of the offense.
Reasoning, the next most effective technique, works best on mildly annoying behaviors such as negotiating or whining.
Giving out punishments and consequences, such as timeouts and taking away privileges, worked well specifically on children that have become difficult (but only for grave offenses such as non-compliance and hitting).
“By investigating how the effectiveness of disciplinary responses vary by the type of noncompliance in toddlers, this study showed how to reconcile the contradictory recommendations of positive parenting and behavioral parent training with each other,” wrote Robert Larzeler, Ph.D., professor at Oklahoma State University and a doctoral student in the study.
On long-term effects, reasoning is by far the tactic that yields a more positive outcome in kids. Offering compromises resulted to more bad behavior in the kids, while punishments and consequences only worked if they were given properly and only on instances that warrant a stronger discipline hand.
On using punishments and consequences While most parents steer clear of givng out punishments, the recent study is proof that, to a certain extent, it is effective. However, it only works if correctly done.
Punishments or threats of it should not be thrown on the table lightly or on a whim. Beforehand, lay down your rules: Which behaviors are non-negotiable for you and warrants a punishment such as a timeout or taking away a privilege (for example, “No TV for a weekend” or “You cannot play video games for a week”), and stick to it. It wouldn’t work if you decide to punish you child for a serious offense one day and them let the same offence go another time just because you are too tired to follow through your word.
Mom-of-two Lisa Rey shares that she only resorts to punishments when her younger child is being extremely difficult. “I always try to face the issue at hand head-on and with a calm mind. If not, I find myself shouting and giving out empty threats, which doesn’t really do any good. My toddler wouldn’t take me seriously if that always happened.” Parents’ actions speak to kids more than what they hear their mom and dad say, so it was very important to her that she herself also does not shout, hit, or do any of what she considers “bad behavior.” However, she adds, “I also find it a bit ineffective if discipline is delivered late. My kids need to know that it’s a particular behavior I don’t like, and not them as a person.”
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Marife Cruz, mom to four kids, adds, “My kids know that they only get punished if it’s a serious offense or bad behaviors on what we call our ‘red list.’ My husband and I have talked to them why, for example, hitting is on the red list -- and its punishment is somewhat related to the behavior. If they did something offensive but it’s not on the red list, then I just try to talk or reason with them. It has to be consistent. You, as a parent, should learn how to follow your rules, too,” she says. It was through experience that Marife realized that kids could already understand reason at an early age. “You just have to patiently explain it to them in terms and in a context they can relate to,” Marife stresses.
At the end of the day, disciplining kids is still a trial-and-error thing -- what works for one child may not work for another. Remember though, that disciplining a child, while sometimes hard to do, is ultimately for their future.