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No parent enjoys being the disciplinarian. It’s one of the less fun aspects of being a parent, but it’s also a necessary evil. Proper discipline is key to helping your child develop good habits from an early age, habits that will help them better interact with their peers and settle well in school.

Is there one way to discipline your child? Absolutely not! As any experienced parent will tell you, a lot of the job is improvised in the moment and you’ll quickly learn what works for you and your family and what doesn’t. However, there are some general points to keep in mind to help you steer your little one in the right direction from their toddler years onwards.

  1. Always be clear and honest with them about what’s expected of them and the consequences of their actions. But keep it quick and to the point so they stay focused.
  2. Honor your word about rewards as well as punishments to help build trust and remind your child who’s in charge. Carry out any punishments in a timely fashion.
  3. Take a time out yourself when you feel like you’re going to lose your cool. Call in a friend or family member when your partner isn’t around to help.
  4. Respect your partner and have open conversations about your parenting and the rules you want to set, as well as how you plan to enforce them. If you have a disagreement, take it in private instead of contradicting them in front of your child.
  5. Pay attention to clues that may lead to the cause of the bad behavior. That can help you solve the problem before it gets worse.
  6. Don’t make incentives too much a part of their routine. Bribes will catch up to you eventually!!
  7. Be patient and hear them out. They need to learn to wait their turn to speak and be good listeners. You need to model this for them, so make sure you do it right.
  8. Get down to their level when talking with them about what they did wrong, so they can see you face to face.
  9. Step away from a screaming or whining child when you can, so they get the message the behavior won’t be tolerated. When they’re behaving well, praise them for it. Catch them being good and doing well as often as you possibly can and tell them about it. Positive reinforcement is worth a hundred punishments.
  10. Set a good example with your own behavior so they learn to copy you. After all, if you’re setting a rule such as, you have clean your plate at dinner or brush your teeth in the morning, you better do it, too.

The most important thing to remember is you will never get it right all of the time. There will be days when you scream and days when you give them ice cream to get them to stop screaming. Look out for your own mental and emotional health as best you can, and take things one day at a time. Chat with fellow moms to find new methods to try, but don’t fall into the trap of comparing your child with theirs.

Disciplining your child may seem like a full-time job once your child reaches those “terrible twos,” but hang in there and stay positive — trust us, it’ll rub off on them, too.

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