Discipline: Laying A Firm Foundation (0-5)


Discipline is hard at any age, but especially in the younger years, because as a parent you are not always sure what discipline will work, if your child “knows” what they are doing, and if your discipline is effective.

Generally speaking, children under age 18 months or so should be re-directed when their behavior isn’t acceptable. For example, your toddler keeps grabbing the TV remotes and putting them in his mouth or pulling your plastic bags out of a cabinet. This behavior is best handled by removing the child from the situation and distracting them (a temporary measure) or by removing the temptation altogether (store the remotes up higher, keep the coffee table totally clear, etc.).

For older children (ages 2-8 or so) you are laying the foundation for submission and authority for the rest of your child’s life. I believe finding a child’s “currency” is key to effective discipline. By “currency” I mean, what discipline tool is “worth something” to that particular child? Some children cannot stand a time-out, making it very effective, while others don’t mind sitting alone at all. If you have more than one child, they will most likely be very different from one another, so effective discipline will look different from child to child.

A few discipline tools are:

1.    Removing social Interaction (time-out)

2.    Loss of privileges and responsibility (taking away toys or screen time, earlier bedtime)

3.    Natural consequences (child didn’t eat dinner and they are hungry at bedtime)

4.    Logical consequences (child broke a sibling’s toy and has to save up or do chores to earn money for a replacement)

5.    Spanking (never in anger, always for a specific, deliberate incident of misbehavior, and always bookended by explanation and restoration of the relationship)

Once you find their currency, be consistent. You will have to give discipline some time in the younger years to start seeing if it’s effective, so don’t give up too soon in the process.

 If you are using one type of discipline and it stops being effective, don’t be afraid to change it up and try something new. It is always a learning exercise. Communicate with your spouse or parenting partner and make sure you are on the same page as you try out new tools.  

Teaching your child to obey, takes time. Be patient! When you grow weary, remember, the better a foundation you lay, the better the later years will be!