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Discipline Without Damage to Self-Esteem

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

Q: How do I discipline my child without hurting his self-esteem?

A: How you build your child's self-esteem on a regular basis gives you the foundation and the tools to discipline your child while still encouraging his self-worth. Let me offer some general self-esteem builders and some specific "disciplining with self-esteem in mind" pointers:


* Always focus on and encourage your child's assets and strengths
*Accept and make your child feel that she is appreciated and loved "just as she is"
*Show your children the same respect you wish to be accorded
*Praise effort and improvement not just perfect accomplishment
*Communicate your faith and trust in your child and her goodness
* Make sure your standards and expectations are not so high that they discourage and promote failure


* Tell and show your child you trust her to act responsibly as you discipline
* Tell her you expect she will learn from this experience
* Separate the deed from the doer; she is acceptable, lovable, despite her behavior
* Through your disciplining voice and actions, reassure her that she has your continuing love and support even though you do not accept what she did
* Always give her your belief that she will choose differently the next time a similar situation arises

Discipline is teaching combined with respect and support; it is not to be confused with punishment that shames and alienates children.

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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 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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