Our Notes on Discipline from Top-Notch Experts

Last week, we hosted our radio show on the the topic of DISCIPLINE. We invited three experts, Debbie Pincus, Scream-Free psychotherapist, Berit Rostad, owner of The Successful Child NY, and Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, to come discuss the ins and outs as well as their tips on effective discipline. If you missed the show, you can listen to it here or download for later listening too.

Here are some of the highlights from the show:

Overall philosophy of discipline:

  • Debbie: I believe discipline is not meant to be punishment but rather a time to be a guide and lead your children.  It requires hard work and being ‘parental’ instead of ‘reactive.’
  • Berit: Discipline is a teaching moment.  Punishment is about exerting control and discipline is more about teaching children to function well in society.
  • Amy: I agree with Debbie and Berit.  Discipline is not just a response to misbehavior, but a lifelong thing.  We need to first help parents to understand WHY the children are misbehaving, and once we understand that we can correct it much more easily.

Is there a time when we should start disciplining our children?

  • Berit:  You can teach them the difference between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as soon as they can learn it.  When they know that what they are doing is wrong is the time to start disciplining.
  • Amy:  I would like to talk to discipline in the broader sense.  A well disciplined child is a well trained child, and that starts right away.  Even when they are not verbal, you train them with your reactions and responses.  So if you have a one year old and respond to his whining he will learn that the whining behavior works.

What truly works in terms of discipline with toddlers?

  • Amy:  There is no blanket strategy.  What we have to do is go a bit deeper and see what the exact behavior we are trying to correct and decide what would be the best strategy for that behavior?

What do you do for a full on temper tantrum in the grocery store?

  • Amy:  Two-part strategy:  1) preventing behavior in the first place.  Bring them to the store with a clipboard and list of things to find at the store.  Give them power and something to do.  2) If they still have a tantrum, disengage as much as we can.  Don’t give it too much attention because that just reinforces it. So remove the child from the situation – go to corner of the store or outside  – and let them have the tantrum. Then bring them back and try to talk to them.
  • Debbie:  Don’t let the behavior be effective. So what you are saying is you can be who you are and feel what you feel, but I am not going to react and give into it. But I also won’t hold it against you.  So you gain nothing, and you lose nothing, but I’m not going to let it be effective.
  • Berit:  I agree with what everyone said. But you also should remember to give a reward if they go to the grocery store and behave well.

How to handle child waking up in middle of night and misbehaving:

  • Amy:  When the child wakes up in the middle of the night, the child gets attention.  So first you need to be clear with your child about what is ok and what is not ok in the middle of the night.  Help the child become self sufficient so that she can help get herself back to sleep.
  • Berit:  The key point is to discuss with the child before bedtime.  Try to discuss the issues that are making them wake up.  If they come to your room, just guide them back to their room without talking so that they are not getting the attention they want.

What if you want to try Time Out:

  • Debbie:  In order to calm ourselves down, we parents often need to take our own time out!  So before you do anything, we need to pause and take our own mini time out before we react.  This way we can decide what would work best in that specific scenario.  If you think that the child needs some time, then time-out is fine.

How long should a Time Out be?

  • Berit:  Make sure you don’t use them too often, but one minute per year of age is a general rule.

Once they come out of time out, do you rehash it?

  • Amy:  You are helping the child to self regulate, to calm down.  And then when he is ready to come back, he can come back and move on.  So the parent doesn’t decide when the child comes back, the child does.  After the fact, we don’t punish, but rather train – discuss with the child what should be done differently next time.

What about the child that is tired, hungry, and been dragged from store to store all day who has a tantrum?

  • Amy:  Need to comfort the child.  They are physically and emotionally losing it and we need to get them back on routine as soon as possible.  When they don’t have consistency and they are melting down because we didn’t do our job, we need to do what we need to do to calm them down.

You are on the street and you have a screaming toddler and you are doing your best, and then a stranger comes by and tries to tell you what to do?

  • Amy:  As much as you want to give them a piece of your mind, graciously say ‘thank you for sharing’ and walk away.

Is it ever OK to hit?

  • Debbie:  I am not OK with it.  MAYBE if they put themselves in danger, like running into the street.
  • Berit:  I don’t ever suggest it, but it happens.  What’s key is if it happens, then you can sit your child down after and tell him that you shouldn’t have done it and explain to them why you did it.
  • Amy:  There is a Duke study that proved that children who were spanked in their first 3 years displayed more aggressive behavior and more stress as teenagers as babies who were not spanked.  It’s proven.

# 1 suggested resource or book on discipline?

  • Debbie:  Scream Free Parenting, Love and Logic, Total Transformation (CD Series)
  • Berit:  I recommend meeting with an expert.  I think there are great products, but I don’t generally recommend one book over another since each child is so different.  Don’t get me wrong – I think books are helpful, but I don’t think there is one book that will work for everyone.
  • Amy:  My book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time, geared to parents of children ages 2 – teens.  Another book I love is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

Best way to contact:

Our internet radio show happens once per month; our next show is scheduled for November 29 at 1 p.m. ET. Go here to find out more information.

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