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Seven Ways to Discipline Effectively

Having a Little Discussion

When something goes wrong, the first and best response of all is usually to sit down and talk about it. Often, open communication is all that is needed to change behavior, or to make sure that a certain misbehavior doesn't happen again. All through this book are communication techniques you can use in your talks. You can talk with your child alone during special time and during family meetings.

Use your discussions to point out natural consequences that might occur from the misbehavior. Kids sometimes need help seeing the chain of events, and understanding why they happen.

At times, simply “talking about it” is not effective. You may be “talked” out. You've had these little chats in the past and nothing has changed-Amy keeps borrowing your clothes without asking. Or the rules and limits around the unacceptable behavior are so explicit and well understood that talking about it is counterproductive. Norman knows perfectly well that placing crank calls to 911 is hurtful and dangerous (it's also illegal). Talking about it won't help-other consequences, applied swiftly and fairly (like removing all phone privileges for a while) will be far more effective. Then you can talk about it.


When you're faced with mild, irritating misbehavior, sometimes the best response is to ignore it. Ignoring is a very active behavior; it doesn't mean just letting it slide and neglecting your child. Ignoring a behavior requires:

  • Making an active decision to ignore it.
  • Paying attention silently while you are actively ignoring it.
  • Developing a poker face-a relaxed body, and straight, unimpressed face-and refuse to get riled by the annoying behavior.

What kind of behavior can you ignore? Certainly, never anything dangerous or hurtful to the child, anybody else, or any object. Good types of behavior to ignore would include: nail biting, nose picking, tuneless humming, minor swearing, foot jiggling, gross jokes, annoying laughs.

Kids often try out annoying behavior patterns, and, the more attention that is paid, the worse the patterns get. Ignoring is gentle, and it works. It's based on the premise that, for your child, negative attention (getting a rise out of you) will give him more satisfaction than will getting no attention.

It's not a new concept. You probably have your own version of the following story. In eighth grade, Randy Humphreys kept teasing me. “Just ignore him. He's just doing that because he likes you. If you ignore the behavior, he'll stop.” (Postscript trivia: Randy did stop. And at my 20th high school reunion, he apologized. “I was just doing it because I liked you,” he said.)

It's a Good Idea!

The key to good discipline is flexibility-the ability to flex and stretch and use a variety of disciplinary techniques and approaches.

While you're ignoring, make a special point to encourage positive behavior-the behavior that you hope will replace the irritating misbehavior. If even one teacher had said, “Randy, I like the way you let Ericka get ahead of you in line today,” instead of, “Randy, stop bugging Ericka and get to the principal's office this minute!” things might have been very different.

If you choose to “ignore,” grit your teeth and be prepared for the behavior to get worse before it gets better. Your child, who is really trying his best to bug you, will now pull out all the stops. If you slip and react, even once, you'll have to start all over again. Give ignoring a chance, perhaps a commitment of a week or two. It's gentle, it's nonintrusive, and, as I know from personal experience with both my kids and stepkids, it can be very effective.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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