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Seven Ways to Discipline Effectively

Separation and Replacement

Kids squabbling over an object? Take it away. (I used to hate it when my uncle did this to me and my cousins, but it sure was effective.) If you separate a child from an object, make sure you replace the activity with something productive. Putting the Nintendo on a high shelf without giving the kids something else to do will only leave them:

  • Bored and ready to cause more trouble.
  • Empty-handed-they'll have to fight each other.
Two rules:
  1. Separation and replacement should never be done with glee (“Ha ha! I've taken away your favorite toy!”).
  2. Only separate a child from an object when the object is related to the misbehavior. (In other words, if Joe is whacking Todd with the truck, the truck goes up. But Joe's Teddy bear-which sat watching the whole encounter with glassy eyes-stays down.)

Time-Outs (Also Known As “Thinking Time”)

Separation and replacement involves separating a child from an object. Time-outs are also a form of separation-separation from a situation. Time-outs (or thinking time) differs a bit depending upon the age and development of the child. The time-outs I'm describing here apply to school-age kids.

Time-outs separate a child from a situation in order to “break” the action and reset it on a new track. Time-outs take the child out of an environment that is reinforcing the negative behavior. For school age kids, time-outs shouldn't always be timed, they should allow the child enough time to change his mood on his own.

  • Don't threaten time-outs, and don't think of them as punishments (“Hit me again and I'll put you in a time-out!”). They're meant to be used as an immediate, brief cooling-off period.
  • Time-outs are most effective when a child needs help changing a mood.
  • A time-out is over once the mood has been changed or the child has calmed down and regained self-control. Let the child determine when a time-out is over-she needs to learn to determine her own moods and rhythms.
  • Time-outs are designed to remove a child from an environment where she is getting gratification for her negative actions. When she returns, don't let her resume her activity. Let her know that her actions were unacceptable. Move her into a more positive situation, and give her positive reinforcement. “The colors you're using on your self-portrait sure make me think of autumn!”
  • Parents can take time-outs, too. (I do!)
It's a Good Idea!

Change the physical place, change the emotional space. I've heard it said that there are not geographical cures. Maybe not, but there are geographical remissions.

It's a Good Idea!

Try a little laughter! Jokes, humor, giggles, and gentle teasing can heal, relieve tension, de-escalate a gnarly situation and stop kids from acting out. Joking nicely about misbehavior can correct it without making it a “heavy” scene. If you're gonna use humor, trash the sarcasm and put-downs. And if your child is preadolescent, sensitive, or touchy, save the humor for another year.


Your kid starts acting out, and the first thing you do is warn her: “Jasmine, cut it out or I'll take that paint brush away,” or “Cody, I'm counting to 10. One, two, three...”. In many cases, bingo! End of misbehavior! I'm warning you, warnings are not the same as threats. Threats are threatening; warnings simply put the child on alert that the behavior needs to stop, now, or there will be consequences. The best warnings clearly state the limit and the related consequence. Warnings only work if your child believes that you'll follow through. Be careful not to cry wolf. Be prepared for your child to call your bluff. The parents who are the most successful with warnings (you know them, they merely need to murmur, “Andrew,” and their child scampers to behave) are the ones who aren't afraid to follow through on each and every warning. Be consistent-it provides security for your child, and ensures that you'll be listened to.

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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