Children misbehave for a variety of reasons. They may be testing the limits of authority. They may also be seeking attention. When children do not as asked, it is a form of misbehavior that prompts disciplinary action. According to Ohio State University, children should be expected to test authority and exert independence as they grow, and a certain amount of defiance is healthy. A lack of disciplinary action accompanied by continued defiance, however, will simply reinforce the negative behavior because there are no negative consequences associated with the defiance. Disciplining defiant children can be accomplished.
Understand what’s important to the child. Every child has currency, meaning there are some things that the child wants, such as toys, and some things the child does not want, such as time-outs. Every child is different, and understanding what children value and what they want no part of is important in introducing disciplinary action.
Establish ground rules. The child needs to understand clearly the repercussions for not doing something when asked. On the other hand, positive behavior needs to be reinforced by rewarding the behavior. Results for breaking ground rules need to be laid out clearly so that the child understands. The repercussions and rewards should be reflective of the child’s currency, things the child deems important.
Use a firm voice when asking the child to do something. Keep a consistent tone. Make sure eye contact is made with the child when you make the request. This helps ensure that the child knows the request is a serious one and will be subject to repercussions if the appropriate behavior is not followed. The tone of voice should be the same whenever a serious request is made. This way, when discipline is applied, the responsibility lies with the child, who will understand that certain behaviors will result in certain actions.
Search for new disciplinary actions if the initial ones do not result in modified behavior from the child. Children will understand that continued bad behavior is not in their best interests. Talk to friends and family members for ideas and suggestions about rewards and repercussions that will have significance for a particular child. Continue to explore new ones until you find those that are effective.