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Effective Discipline for Kids Ages Two and Six

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Hi, I am a mother of a two and six year old. My husband and I have been having great difficulty in effective discipline... nothing seems to work. I have bought book after book and still nothing.. I am beginning to think my children are deaf???? I repetely ask my six year old not to do something and still she does as she pleases... I have been asking her for MONTHS to pick up her room, finally I went in with the garbage bag... problems are only at home, when my children are with others or at school they are angels?? what am i doing wrong?? or am i doing something right because they are great without my husband or my self?

Above were only a few examples -- of course I try not to expect to much of them because they are still so very young but sometimes I wonder, if I expected more, I would get a better result???

A: Clearly you and your husband have done a lot right for you to hear such positive feedback from others outside your house. Disciplining a 2 year-old and a 6 year-old are very different challenges, as you know. It's virtually a 2 year old's job to be oppositional and difficult as she tries to establish her own identity apart from her parents. Your 6 year old's lack of cooperation and refusal to do so many things you ask of her is the more troubling of the two problems.

I believe, in general, fights over the messy status of kids rooms are battles that are not worth putting much effort into. Outside of keeping it relatively clean so as not to have her spend a lot of time in a dusty(any allergy problems?) environment, I tend to say let the kids have control over their own little piece of the house, they have physical control of nothing else-you do.

I am a believer in kids understanding and receiving the natural consequences of their behavior. I am also a believer in the notion that kids have "goals" attached to their misbehavior and that if you can figure out why the child wants to get the responses she gets from you for her misbehavior then you are on your way to some solutions. For the best introduction to these parenting philosophies and some practical suggestions on implementing them, I strongly suggest buying The Parent's Handbook by Dinkmeyer and McKay. I recommend very few "parenting expert" books but this is one of a very few that all parents would benefit from.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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