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DISCIPLINE   One of the hardest jobs a parent can have is trying to guide their children into acceptable behavior. There is days that one thing or another seems to go wrong. Other days everything seems to go right. This inconsistent behavior occurs because your child is still learning how to behave. This lack of cooperation may be how your child tests his limits. It's up to parents to help their child find those limits. There are many techniques that you can use in disciplining your child. A technique good for one may not be good for the other. A different technique may be needed in different situations for the same child. Discipline is the guidance you give your child in helping him to grow into a socially responsible human being. You can make this task easier by taking some simple measures. The following recommendations will help make your job easier and more effective.

Say "no" only to the important things. Too many "no's" can overwhelm and confuse your child and he may not be able to conform to all your limits. He may have a hard time differentiating which ones are important. Try to see your child's point of view. Sometimes there is a good reason for a behavior is you look for it. Instead of saying "no," give your child a choice so he can make the decision. This permits him to have control and a sense of freedom. Allowing your child to make decisions within the boundaries you set will strengthen his self-esteem.

For discipline to be effective, it must take place as soon as your child has misbehaved. This is especially true for toddlers and preschoolers. Children of this age have short memories and are unlikely to connect yesterday's misbehavior with today's discipline.

Be consistent. Make sure your child's ground rules are the same in and out of the house. If you let your child run around after dinner at home, don't be upset if he runs around in the restaurant. Important issues, such as safety or health, are usually not discipline problems because the rules are clear without room for bargaining. Consistency also means following through on what you say you are going to do. Hollow threats are asking for problems. Your child will learn that you do not mean what you say.

Remember to praise. Your child will learn better through praise then through punishment. Praise, attention, hugs, and special treats that demonstrate your pleasure will influence your child's behavior more effectively than signs of displeasure. Positive behavior modification is also important in developing a healthy self-esteem. When you must discipline, you want your child to realize that it is his behavior that needs changing, not himself.

Stop a confrontation before it develops. If you see your child starting to have trouble with a task, offer another activity that he will more likely succeed at. You can also take appropriate safety steps to avoid the need for discipline altogether.

Understand the cause, not just the symptom, of the outburst. Your child may be acting the way he does for a reason that is not obvious. If he is acting obnoxiously to the babysitter before you leave for the movies, he may be having separation anxiety. It may not be unreasonable if he is unable to wait his turn when sharing his toys. The preschooler is just beginning to gain control over delayed gratification. It is difficult for him to wait his turn or wait to get what he wants. The negative behavior he shows when you ask him to share is a way of expressing frustration. It is a normal phase of development.

Lastly, set a good example. Parents, through their own example, are always showing their children how to behave. If you don't want your child to whine or explode in anger, don't do so yourself. If you want neatness, you need to be neat yourself. Although discipline is a hard job, you can make it less difficult by following these suggestions. You will enjoy the rewards when you see your child grow into a mature sociable individual.

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