Are there ways to correct your child’s behavior more effectively?

Are there ways to correct your child’s behavior more effectively?

To get children to behave, some parents use reason in the midst of a temper tantrum while others prefer to reward positive behaviors, but a new study suggests using timeouts.

The study presented at the American Psychological Association Annual Convention investigated immediate and long-term effects of seven common disciplines for toddler misbehavior and found that timeouts were the most effective way to get a toddler to behave.

“Parental discipline and positive parenting techniques are often polarized in popular parenting resources and in parenting research conclusions,” said lead researcher Dr. Robert Larzelere, a professor of human development and family science at Oklahoma State University, in a news release. “But scientifically supported parenting interventions for young defiant children have found that timeouts and other types of assertive tactics can work if they’re administered correctly.”

Researchers interviewed 102 mothers of children ranging in ages from 18 to 30 months. Each mother was asked to provide detailed descriptions of five times they had to discipline their toddlers for hitting, whining, not listening or defiance.

After analyzing the early results, researchers saw immediate behavior improvement when parents compromised with their child regardless of the child’s behavior. Reasoning was also effective when kids were negotiating or whining, but timeouts and taking away something were most effective when dealing with a toddler who was acting out.

Two months later, the moms were interviewed and the results differed. Moms noticed their kids acting worse when they tried using discipline tactics like compromise, but a timeout was most effective in improving behavior, especially for defiant kids.

Physicians stress that there is no one-size fits all approach to raising children.

“It is important to seek first to understand your child’s perspective before judging the behavior,” says Dr. Tony Hampton, family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Chicago. “The goal for the parent is to look for a rationale for the behavior by using your new understanding to help explain why your child is upset.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following strategies when your child is acting out:

  1. Natural consequences: Let your child see what happens when she misbehaves. For example, if a child keeps dropping his or her cookies on purpose, then there will won’t be any cookies left to eat.
  2. Logical consequences: Creating a consequence that is imposed and enforced to help kids learn an important lesson. Parents need to be consistent with the consequence and it helps to explain in advance before disciplining the child.
  3. Withholding privileges: When you tell your child he or she will have to give something up if he or she doesn’t cooperate.
  4. Time-out: A  technique that works well when a specific rule has been broken. It works best for children from 2 to 5 years old, but can be used throughout childhood. To make a timeout work effectively, make sure to do the following:
    • Set the rules ahead of time.
    • Choose a time-out spot.
    • Start the time-out right away.
    • Set a time limit.
    • Let the child resume activity after she has served her time.

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One Comment

  1. No, no, no, no. Time outs are almost as abusive as spanking. It’s saying to the child, “you are not loved as long as you behave this way. You must leave my presence and you are only loved when you behave as I want you to.” Of course they “work” – losing a parent’s love is the most devastating possibility for a young child, so they’ll do anything to get it back. But it’s manipulative and abusive.

    The key is to stop focusing on the behavior, especially whether the child is being “good” or “bad” and look at what the child is trying to communicate. Why is the child hitting, for example? Is the other person doing something to them? If the child understands that you are trying to work with them to solve their problem, they will be able to let go of the emotion that was leading to the behavior.

    And, no, you can’t “reason” with a child in many cases. That’s because their primitive brains are too aroused by fear or anger and they are more in a fight or flight mode. If that’s the case, you need to sit with them for a while at their level and speak softly and re-assuringly until their cognitive/executive functions come back online. Then you can work through the problem. Punishment is perceived as a threat and only serves to heighten the emotional/primitive response and makes it that much harder to calm down. Once the child has calmed down and the problem is resolved, there is usually not much need for punishment. Using punishment only ensures that you’ll need to use more punishment later.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.