Study Shows Many Parents Doubt Their Discipline Tactics

CLEARFIELD – If you wonder whether your child will ever follow your rules, you’re not alone. In fact, a new study shows that nearly a third of parents don’t think their discipline approach works with their kids. Parents at 64 doctors’ offices in the United States and Canada were surveyed before their 2- to 11-year-olds’ regular checkup. The parents (almost all of them moms) reported how often they used these common disciplinary techniques in the past month:

45 percent used time-outs
41 percent removed privileges
27 percent sent kids to their bedrooms
13 percent yelled
9 percent spanked (on the bottom)
About the effectiveness of their strategies:

21 percent of parents said it “always” works
45 percent said it “often” works
31 percent said it “never” or “sometimes” works
In particular, parents who yell at their kids saw themselves as ineffective, according to the study, which was conducted by Pediatric Research in Office Settings, a practice-based research arm of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Many parents (38 percent) also said they use the same discipline tactics their own parents had employed with them; regardless of whether they believe the discipline tactic was effective.

What does this mean for you? Every child is different and what works with one may not work for another. But here are some basic rules about discipline:

Be consistent. Make good on your promises of discipline. Kids have to believe that you really mean what you say. But be careful not to make unrealistic threats in anger (“Push your sister again and I’ll take away all of your toys”). Failing to follow through could weaken all of your disciplinary efforts.

Explain to kids what you expect of them before doling out punishments. Decide together with your kids what the rules are and make sure they understand them.

Tell kids what the right thing to do is, not the wrong thing. Instead of “Don’t jump on the couch,” try “Please sit on the furniture and put your feet on the floor.”

Allow kids to experience natural consequences. That means that when kids spill their milk on purpose, they won’t have their cups refilled. Or when they refuse to do homework, they’ll have to accept a bad grade.

Skip spanking. Why? Because spanking: teaches children that it’s OK to hit when they’re angry; can physically harm kids, makes children fearful of their parents, teaches kids to avoid getting caught rather than change their behavior, and may inadvertently “reward” kids who seek attention by acting out — negative attention is better than no attention.

Institute time-outs. Choose a spot with no distractions (a kitchen chair, bottom stair, etc.). Kids should spend 1 minute in time-out for every year of age (e.g., three minutes for a 3-year-old).

Have “time-ins.” Discipline is also about recognizing good behaviors, not just punishing bad ones. But rather than a generic “good job,” offer specific praise (“I’m proud of you for sharing your toys at the playground.”). Kids of all ages usually crave — and respond to — their parents’ positive, loving reinforcement.

Additional information is available from your local office of Penn State Cooperative Extension. In Clearfield, the office is located in the Multi-Service Center, or by calling 765-7878. In Brookville, the office is located at 180 Main St., or by calling 849-7361. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce.

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