Parenting Challenges: How Appropriate Discipline Can Help

As a parent, you want to create a harmonious family life where both children and parents have to navigate life’s biggest challenges with ease, where everyone’s needs are met, and where everyone feels a sense of belonging. It can be hard to know how to support our children best and ensure their healthy development, especially if we didn’t get the best support during our own upbringing.

dad helping daughter cook

From gentle parenting gurus to influencers claiming to have the best strategies for navigating challenging behaviors, finding the right parenting advice for your unique situation can be difficult. Social media, parenting books, and television shows highlight parenting challenges while setting unrealistic expectations without providing the proper tools. There are many things to consider when it comes to parenting, including finding the right parenting style, dealing with tantrums, setting boundaries, and helping our children cope with stress. 

SMPsychotherapy believes empowering parents is the best way to encourage healthy child development. In this article, we will detail discipline strategies for the most common parenting challenges and offer tips on staying supportive of our children while maintaining our own well-being.

Strategies to Overcome Discipline Issues

As your child grows, they will assert independence and push boundaries. This behavior is normal, but keeping your children safe and raising healthy adults requires discipline. Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is education. When parents use discipline effectively, they teach their children how to behave as members of a caring society. Discipline should help your child learn to regulate emotions, bounce back from adversity, manage stressful situations, and learn about the natural consequences of their actions.

Sometimes, though, it seems that no matter what you try, you cannot reign in your child’s behavior. Whether the problem is talking back, physical aggression, or unsafe behavior, discipline issues can be a major challenge for any parent. Without proper strategies in place, it can be difficult to manage and modify children’s behavior effectively. To help parents tackle this problem, here are 5 strategies to overcome discipline issues. These strategies include

Set consistent rules and expectations.

Children thrive on routine and structure. They love to know what to expect from you, and what you expect from them. Set expectations about school, morning duties, household chores, meal times, play time, and interactions with siblings and other family members.

You can’t possibly plan for every event in advance, so keep an eye and ear out for events and circumstances where your child requires clearer expectations. Good parenting requires constant adjustment. Signs children require more direction include: meltdowns, withdrawing, or “shutting down”, and any situation that causes you to feel out of control.

Use natural consequences whenever possible

Your children are more likely to learn to put dirty clothes in the hamper by running out of clean underwear than by telling them where to put the clothes. It may be difficult to let things get to this point, but experience is the most effective teacher.

Whenever it’s safe to do so, let your kids suffer the natural consequences of their behavior. Have you ever fought with your child about doing homework? Do you both walk away feeling utterly depleted? That kind of arguing can erode your relationship with your children. If they refuse to do homework, they will suffer the consequences of poor grades, try to let them.

Create a behavior management plan

Have you ever found yourself at your wits end because your child won’t stop hitting their sibling? Do you resort to yelling every morning because your child refuses to put their shoes on before school? A behavior management plan may help.

If a behavior management plan is something you want for your child, consulting with a professional therapist with experience in childhood development can help. You can create a behavior management plan for any of these areas:

  • activities of daily living (hygiene, eating, sleeping)
  • learning at home or school
  • behavioral compliance
  • language and communication skills
  • social skills
  • increasing frustration tolerance

Use positive reinforcement techniques

son on his dad's shoulders

Rewarding the behavior you want to see, or any improvements, is often more effective than punishing problematic behavior. Depending on the behavior you’re looking for, you may have to catch your child being good in order to help them understand your expectations. When your child puts a toy away or uses the words please and thank you when asking for something, be sure to praise that behavior. IF they walk away from their sibling instead of hitting when frustrated, make mention of it.

For large behavior issues, token rewards can help. Children respond to tokens such as stickers, small fidget toys, special time with a caregiver, or even an extra story at bedtime. Older children may respond well to extra screen time, or privileges around the house. All children enjoy praise from their caregivers. Find a reward your child likes, and have them work toward earning it by incrementally improving their behavior. If you want your child to get dressed independently, start rewarding them for picking out their clothes, then for putting on their shirt or shoes. Eventually, you can work up to the expected behavior.

Establish clear consequences for misbehavior

While natural consequences are always best, that’s not always possible or safe. When you need consequences for misbehavior, keep them clear, consistent, and appropriate.

  • Consequences should always be related to misbehavior. If your child hurts their sibling, a consequence that requires demonstrating kindness is appropriate, while losing access to a favorite toy is not.
  • Consequences should be respectful toward the child. Misbehavior is not an excuse to ridicule a child and will only weaken the parent/child relationship.
  • Consequences should be appropriate for the child’s age and developmental level. 

Spend positive time with your children

Often, spending quality time together can thwart most behavior problems. Whether you have young children or teenagers, finding ways to connect with and engage with them can help bolster their self esteem. Young children will love it if you play with them, even for brief periods, and teenagers may benefit from simply sitting close to you while scrolling through their social media feed.

Show your children what you expect

Your children will copy your behavior. If you want them to respond calmly when frustrated, you need to be able to do the same. If you want them to stop hitting their siblings, make sure you aren’t spanking them for misbehavior.

When your child’s behavior challenges your patience, focus on regulating your emotions before responding. This might mean taking deep breaths or even stepping out of the room. It’s okay for your child to see you engaging in these regulating behaviors – maybe they’ll even start emulating them!

If you need help learning to manage your own thoughts and emotions, individual therapy may help. Working with a mental health professional can help you learn strategies for managing parenting issues and daily stress.

Empowered Parents Empower children

dad kissing his son on the cheek

Empowered parenting is a powerful tool to help children reach their full potential. It allows parents to support their children in developing skills and abilities that will serve them well throughout their lives.

By providing guidance, structure, and support, parents can help their children become more independent, resilient, and successful. Empowered parenting also helps to foster strong relationships between parent and child, which are essential for healthy development.

If you want help guiding your children to become healthy, well-adjusted humans, reach out to our office today to schedule an appointment for individual or family therapy. We’re also proud to offer group parenting therapy for parents who want connection and camaraderie as well as evidence-based parenting strategies.

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