Discipline is a very controversial subject in the United States.  Whether you believe in corporal punishment, light punishment or none at all, experts agree some is important so that children learn discipline at a young age in order to conform to laws they will have to obey later in their lives. But, how do we discipline a young child without stifling their spirit?

Learn From the Pros

With new television shows like Nanny 911 Super Nanny on the forefront, we can see cases of where lack of discipline can hurt a whole family. Not every child is the same, so it’s important to try different techniques in order to find which one works best for your child. However, there are also cases widely reported on the news about too much discipline with beatings, abuse and neglect as forms of punishment.  We know these are not right and only hurt children.  So what do you do?

Non-Physical Methods

Starting early is the key and here are a few techniques you can try with your toddler.  Time out is a popular form of punishment for small children. The best way to do this is to designate an area that your child will go to when they don’t follow the family rules. This might be a “naughty mat” or corner to sit in. This kind of punishment works well with children who hate to sit still and think of this as an actual hardship for them.

Another form of punishment is grounding or taking privileges away. It’s fun to make a daily chart and track their progress as they improve. You can give them a sticker or star when they follow rules for the day (or morning and evening) and an X if they break a rule. You can make a general guideline that if they break 3 rules in a day, then they lose one of their favorite privileges (like video games or TV) the next day. Many schools even incorporate a system like this and children get a class party when the class is doing well for the week.

Whatever your form of punishment is, it is very important to constantly go over the rules with your child, and let them know why the rules exist. Make sure any discipline is done decisively and both parents abide by the same rules and back each other when there is conflict. The children need to know that you discipline them because you love them and want them to know right from wrong. They will respect the boundaries and limits that you set as they grow older.