Parents often wonder what is the best method in which to teach children that are learning how to behave and how to think. Good parenting and discipline often equate the same thing: effective teaching. Discipline does not equal punishment. Discipline is an emotional education: a way of teaching your young child to handle their feelings and reminding her/him how to behave. The ultimate goal is to help children gain self-control, which is one of the best predictors for personal well-being, learning, and healthy functioning. While there are numerous and often conflicting parenting books and experts, there are a few consistently effective concepts according to child development research.

  1. Consistently be mindful of your own actions. We are our children’s first teacher and model of how to behave and respond to places, people, and challenges. If you are impatient in the car pool lane and yell at other cars, you can expect that your child may become impatient and yell on the playground. The way we handle situations such as set limits without anger, act instead of react, and respond calmly with stressful situations- is the way we show children how it looks to be in control of our emotions and behavior.
  2. Listen to the way you talk to your child. Your words become their inner voice. What repeating message do you want them to hear in their mind? Are they worthy, loveable, and capable?
  3. Set limits that make children feel secure. What standards are you comfortable with? Only you can make the rules for your household. Tell your child what you expect and have realistic and age appropriate expectations of your child. Children look to see who is in charge, make sure it is you. A toddler or kindergartener should not be ruling the house. This much control gives children anxiety, which in turn creates tension and lack of predictability. Contrary to our belief, young children want to know that we are in control and have safe boundaries for them.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” There are some times when you need to deny your child’s requests either for safety issues or a variety of other reasons that you feel are important. We set children up for a rude awakening if we never teach them to accept “no” as a final answer or more concerning, do not teach them that they can say “no” to someone else. Children must understand the meaningfulness within the word “no” and they must be able to use it themselves. When we effectively model what “no” means, we ensure that our children are capable of setting their own boundaries within the word “no” as well.

Parenting is the greatest form of teaching. Being an effective teacher begins within us and continues within the lessons we pass on to our children.