When My Child Misbehaves: Deciding on Discipline

Consequences are a byproduct of behavior – at all ages. As an adult, if I run a red light while driving my car, I may be hit by another driver, or get a ticket if a police officer observed me run the red light. Both actions are a consequence of my behavior.

Families, too, implement consequences. Often they are meant to help shape and provide boundaries and safety for their family members. For example, a consequence of coming home later than curfew may be the loss of an evening out the following week! Or perhaps the consequence for staying on a cell phone past when it is lights out is the removal of the cell phone from the bedroom during the sleeping hours.

Another example is for preschoolers. If a preschooler won’t help pick up toys when playtime is over, then perhaps a favorite toy or two is removed from the toy bin for several days. This removal signals that some behavior was not followed.

The application of consequences must be followed with conversations about desired behaviors. The conversation communicates the reason for the rule or restriction. Sometimes parents have included the older kids when discussing rules and consequences. Reminders help even the youngest children to be mindful of their behavior.

The Science of Parenting team has been discussing child growth and development as it relates to guidance and discipline. Each session provides helpful research and strategies designed to support parents in their role as nurturing and loving parents.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Gauge by Their Age

Guiding children often comes with many decisions that impact how children grow and develop, and discipline strategies are one of the many decisions.

Depending on the child’s age and stage of development, the strategy will be different.  For toddlers and preschoolers, appropriate discipline may involve simply distracting children or giving them something different to do to redirect their attention away from misbehaviors. As children get older and can understand more complex reasoning and explanations, parents’ discipline approaches may be more adaptive as they rely more on reasoning to manage children’s behaviors.

The real goal of parental discipline is to teach children how to behave in desired ways. Rewards and punishments have long been used as a strategy. As children age, they begin to understand their parents’ rules and family values and begin to exhibit behaviors that align. The conversations parents have with their children about the rules and consequences can help children, especially if both parent and child are calm and regulated. The discussions that happen when emotions are high may have more harsh consequences than when discussed after emotions have calmed for both child and adult.

As teens, parents might find that removing a privilege is a fair consequence to bring about more desired behavior. Communication will again be a favored strategy so that the teen still feels connected to the parent even in the face of a consequence for undesired behavior. It is during this time of adolescence that the teen begins to assume the responsibilities that come with emerging adulthood and is rewarded with more privileges. Guiding preschoolers, school-agers, or teens means continual communication with one another and choosing discipline strategies that respect the age and stage of each individual.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Recognizing the Parent-Child Relationship

The relationships that parents have with their children can be some of the strongest bonds ever. Parents are the first educators of their children, so they have a big responsibility to provide the guidance, safety, and protection that allows their children to grow and develop into healthy children, teens, and eventually, adults!

Research from Grusec & Goodnow, 1994, reveals “the overall climate of the parent-child relationship affects how receptive children are to parents’ attempts to shape their behavior”. If the overall parent-child relationship is warm and loving rather than hostile or neglectful, children will be more motivated to obey their parents, making discipline attempts easier and more effective.

When children comply with house rules and their behavior is compliant with parental requests, parents may feel like guiding their children is easy. However, when children are curious, energetic, and don’t comply with house rules or are easily distracted and unable to comply with family guidelines, parents must step in and help them learn. This is the whole role of discipline. Helping children learn to modify their behavior so that they can experience inner self-control. Sometimes discipline can be expressed as a very harsh, negative consequence for bad behavior. However, discipline can also be thought of as a way of guiding individuals toward appropriate behavior. Even adults show their own self-discipline on a daily basis! A parent who remains committed to helping their child grow in happy and healthy ways will see discipline as a positive response.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Emotions: The Good, Bad, & Ugly

Each day brings a new set of experiences for everyone, including those parents raising children. These experiences include following a schedule for the day, planning meals, getting kids ready and off to school or early care and parents out the door to work on time! The competing activities can cause tension and frustration without the necessary coping skills!

Kids too can feel a level of frustration when they:

  • Don’t get what they want, when they want it!
  • Another child will not share a toy
  • They are overstimulated
  • Too tired to express their feelings in positive ways or
  • HUNGRY

to name a few!

The result may be behavior that is expressed in ways that cause everyone upset. Parents quickly become aware of the signs their children express in reaction to the frustration they may be feeling. Many times, parents can act first and re-direct a child, offer a snack, provide a new activity, or offer a moment to snuggle resulting in a well-deserved nap.

When the emotions are high, something needs to happen to get everyone re-regulated. The Science of Parenting team has suggested the “STOP. BREATHE. TALK” campaign as one way to work through a tough time, without letting all the emotions guide our behavior. Learning to calm ourselves first can help us choose a positive reaction to the behavior we have to address!

Follow this eighth season of the podcast as we explore guiding childing and finding appropriate discipline techniques.   

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Unspoken Aspects of Discipline

As parents learn they are expecting a new baby, they may be filled with joy, excitement and anticipation too! They may also have worries about how they will ever learn everything there is to know about raising happy healthy children. As we have explored in previous podcast seasons, our temperament is part of who we are from birth! As the great guidance and discipline season is upon us you might be interested to learn that some research has revealed that “Individual characteristics of both children and parents predict the form of discipline that parents use”.

The traits we have as children can even predict what type of discipline is used, for example the following childhood traits were found to increase the likelihood of harsh punishment:

  • Children with problems with conduct, attention, and disobedience
  • Children who are more negative emotionally and more irritable
  • Children who display behaviors that are particularly stressful for their parent
  • Children with disabilities, particularly those with communication difficulties

Adults who are aware of their own temperament and who can identify when they are being triggered by their child’s behavior, can be prepared with another, less harsh form of discipline.

Culture is another aspect that figures into our decisions regarding what measures are taken to guide and discipline children. Research confirms culture influences what child behaviors we view as desired or undesirable. It also influences what parenting practices we view as normal and acceptable.

As a society we rely on adults who are responsible and accountable, thus who have learned discipline from an early age. As parents navigate the journey of child rearing, they too have decisions to make regarding the best way to raise their children to become happy, healthy, well-mannered, and disciplined! We will continue to explore guidance practices and offer strategies for the parent toolbox.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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The Great Guidance and Discipline Debate

While the goal of having a great family and good kids who get along and follow the rules and know-how to behave when out in public is a great goal, sometimes we miss the mark, and someone in the family just isn’t having the best day and their behavior will attest.

Because we are human, we won’t have a good day every day, and someone may bother us or say something to us to make us angry. Perhaps a sibling will not share a new toy with another, and a fit ensues. These are the situations that are common in most families from time to time. Parents are the first educators of their children and are called on to provide the rules and guidance necessary for the children to grow, develop, and feel safe in the family home.

Discipline is something all adults practice daily in order to be successful, complete daily responsibilities, and raise a happy, healthy family. This season on The Science of Parenting podcast, we will explore how guiding children and helping everyone learn discipline can guide behavior so that children learn accountability now and well into their teens and adulthood. 

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Choosing Positive Discipline

Guiding and directing children as they grow and develop is a serious endeavor for parents. We know family values are usually at the heart of all rules, boundaries, and limits that parents set for their children.

Research in family science has a lot to say about what works around discipline. According to two decades of research by Elizabeth Gershoff & colleagues, physical punishment like spanking has been shown not only to be harmful, but also ineffective.

Discipline and punishment are two very different things. Discipline is meant to help children learn to regulate their own behavior as they are gaining more and more independence. Parents who use positive discipline approaches are teaching their children what behaviors are desired and then using natural or logical consequences when necessary to guide and direct their children.

Blaming and shaming parents for the choices they make in guiding their children is also not helpful. When we look at the research around harsh parenting, we can choose to avoid harmful and ineffective techniques and utilize approaches that are less threatening and more positive! We can do this most effectively by encouraging behaviors we do like, communicating our messages openly and honestly, and by utilizing Stop. Breathe. Talk. for keeping our cool in the heat of the moment.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Understanding Why They Do What They Do – Temperament

Last time I shared a bit about brain development and how I feel that it really helps to answer many of child development’s great questions, but what about all those emotions and feelings that get in the way of what the brain is trying to accomplish?

Temperament has fascinated me for more than two decades. It ends up being an integral part to why we think, feel and behave the way we do. I’ve watched the field of temperament grow from just one paragraph in a child development text to almost an entire chapter and even full scale parenting books on the topic.

“Why does one infant grimace strongly at the taste of strained peas while another barely flinches? ”

“Why does one toddler hide behind a parent’s leg while another races off to play at the new playground?”

“Why does one child need a standing desk and another a quiet space?”

All of these questions are ones I’ve asked as both a parent and an educator. If we root around the science of temperament, we can determine our own child’s particular temperament traits and create opportunities to support their natural temperamental tendencies. Designing guidance and discipline that provided support to their unique temperaments while at the same time teaching them positive social skills and appropriate behavior expectations.

As a parent of three distinctly different children it was obvious from the beginning that trying to parent them ‘all the exact same way’ wasn’t going to create success for anyone. As I learned to provide guidance to each of their individual temperaments, I was able to meet their individual needs as well as create opportunities for success. It wasn’t always easy (because don’t forget brain development), but it was always worth it.

Some of my favorite colleagues and friends in the temperament field.

Also, take time to browse our resources in Parenting in Challenging Moments. Many of our resources take temperament into consideration as we look at guiding children appropriately.

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is often measured in terms of how willing we are as individuals to decide between what we WANT today and what is best for us in the long run. Having the self-discipline to manage our resources; appropriate behavior; language and work ethic help to create a stable environment in which to live.  Parent’s too, who spend the time early in a child’s life to help them adjust their behavior so that they are well mannered in school; the neighborhood and at home, can take credit for creating a nurturing environment.

Natural consequences are all around us, youth and adult alike. If I work through lunch and the cafeteria is closed when I finally take a break to eat, I will have to have another plan for eating. If I choose to use “salty” language to my peers on the job, I may run the risk of being overlooked for leadership positions, because my language is a reflection of my lack of self-discipline in proper communication.

Everyday, we are challenged to work alongside others who may or may not have the same set of skills; our self-discipline is simply an expression of the character we have and our willingness to lead by example!

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Natural and Logical Consequences

This week we welcome guest blogger and doctoral candidate Amber Kreischer.

Amber is a doctoral candidate in the department of Human Development and Family Studies. Homeschooling mother of two. Former preschool teacher. Passionate about early childhood development, gender, and books.

Children are in a continuous state of learning how to manage their emotions, their bodies, and their thoughts. Because of this, it is common for children to have outbursts, make mistakes, and test boundaries. The question is: What can we do to help them learn from these events and help them change their behavior for the better? Two options are to use “natural” and “logical” consequences.

No matter our age, we all face consequences for our actions. Often, people argue that children who grow up ‘without consequences’ will never learn how to behave in society. The implied message behind this statement is that adults need to plan or manipulate the consequences that children experience in order for them to have an effect. This is not always the case.

Many times, teaching children “natural consequences” is an effective behavior management technique. It requires no intervention at all on the part of the adult, other than thoughtful discussion with the child regarding what happened. As the name suggests, these types of consequences occur naturally and can be strong motivators for children to reflect on and change undesirable behavior. If a child throws a toy in anger and the toy breaks, the natural consequence is that the toy is now broken. Immediately replacing or repairing the toy would not allow the child to learn from what naturally resulted from their actions. Similarly, perhaps your child is one of many whose bedroom gets messier by the second. Upon stepping on an object on the floor, their pained foot and broken object are natural consequences of choosing to have a messy room.

What is particularly powerful about natural consequences is their lifelong relevance. These are aspects of life that people must manage on a regular basis. Discussing these naturally-occurring outcomes with children benefits them both during the immediate situation as well as in the long run.

A related technique involves the use of “logical consequences.” This technique requires caregivers to think of and employ consequences that logically connect to the given misbehavior. For example, at meal times children sometimes have a habit of bouncing around in their chairs. When a child spills their drink, it logically follows that they would be required to clean it up, rather than having an adult swoop in and clean it for them. My son had a habit of screaming in restaurants when he was a toddler. At first, we shushed him as much as we could, noting glares from other tables. Once I thought to use a logical consequence, his behavior quickly changed. In response to his loudness, we began to calmly remove him from the dining area while telling him that we could not scream in restaurants and we would return to our table when he was finished. It was evident that he learned that the behavior of screaming was not appropriate for restaurant environments, and after 2-3 times of receiving this logical consequence, he used an “inside voice” every time we went out to eat.

It can sometimes be difficult to think of natural and logical consequences in the moment. Consider some behaviors that your child exhibits often. What are some ways that you could allow them to learn from the logical and natural results of their actions?

 

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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A Look at Corporal Punishment

Last week we talked about how consistent discipline builds trust. This week we asked Dr. Carl Weems PhD, Professor and Chair of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University about the effects of corporal punishment and its impact on youth’s ability to regulate their emotions.

In the study, Parenting Behaviors, Parent Heart Rate Variability and their Associations with Adolescent Heart Rate Variability, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Dr. Weems and colleagues looked at the associations between parenting behaviors and emotion regulation.

Tell us a little about what your study looked at:

Emotion regulation is associated with positive social functioning and psychological adjustment among youth. Emotion regulation involves both the automatic and voluntary control of negative and positive emotions using physiological, cognitive, and behavioral means to achieve goals. Resting heart rate variability (i.e., the natural variability in the time between heart beats while an individual is at rest) is a physiological index of an individual’s emotion regulation. In our study we fund that certain parenting behaviors were related to this.

How did corporal punishment impact your findings?

Inconsistent discipline and corporal punishment were negatively associated with adolescent resting heart rate variability. Suggesting that corporal punishment is associated with diminished levels of emotion regulation. Theoretically, the extended use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary technique may be especially harmful for youth with low heart rate variability because it may cause youth to view their home environment as threatening and decrease their sense of control over their environment, which may exacerbate existing emotion dysregulation and maintain low heart rate variability levels.

Did you find impacts of positive parenting as well?

Positive parenting and parental involvement were positively associated with emotion regulation-suggesting these are associated with increased emotion regulation ability. Inconsistent discipline and parental involvement also influenced the relationship between parent and adolescent resting heart rate variability. Such that that in the context of low inconsistent discipline (i.e., consistent discipline), there was a positive association between parent and adolescent resting heart rate variability.

If you were to share one important message from this study what would that be?

This finding suggests that consistent discipline may entrain parent and adolescent heart rate variability (i.e., make parent and adolescent resting heart rate variability more similar). The findings provide evidence for a role of parenting behaviors in shaping the development of adolescent resting heart rate variability with inconsistent discipline and parental involvement potentially influencing the entrainment of resting heart rate variability in parents and their children.

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Discipline helps children learn

I recently had someone ask me, “Lori if you say I can’t punish my child aren’t you really telling me that they should be able to do whatever they want?”.   Thus started our conversation on the difference between punishment and discipline.

Earlier this month we defined both punishment and discipline. We found the definition of punishment to be: to deal with roughly or harshly, to inflict injury on. While the definition of discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects moral character.

In parenting, our goal should always be to mold and correct as opposed to inflict injury on. I understand where the question about punishment came from. Obviously, we don’t want to imply that inappropriate behaviors in children should have no consequences or that children shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. What we do want is children who trust that we have their best interests in mind as we guide and teach them appropriate ways to act and behave.

We know that guiding children takes time but it also takes a trusting relationship. Children learn to trust us through our consistency with them. They learn from us when we are consistent with our expectations of their behavior and when we take time to talk and model the behavior we want them to have instead. When we guide their appropriate choices we instill a sense of trust in them. They understand that even though we may not be letting them do what they want, they trust us because we have been loving and consistent.

My answer to the original question then was “Discipline is always about helping children learn the consequences of their actions. Punishment is about instilling fear”.

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Discipline is different for everyone

We know this to be true. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of journey. Understanding that each child is unique becomes important even as we consider guidance and discipline. Guidance and discipline strategies will change as children grow and they will also be unique to each particular child. We won’t have just one strategy that we use from start to finish. We will, however, select strategies that grow as our child grows and that match their temperament and personality.

The first step then is selecting a discipline strategy that is appropriate for the age of the child. Appropriate toddler age strategies include redirecting and ignoring. Examples of appropriate strategies for preschoolers include natural consequences or time-in. Consider this more effective version of time-out called ‘time-in’ – essentially it is cuddle time or positive quiet time to get the child’s needs met and ensure emotional regulation for both parent and child.

The second step is then selecting the strategy that meets each child’s particular temperament and personality. Some children will respond quickly to a particular strategy while others may have a limited response. You may even need to select different strategies for siblings due to their different temperaments.

The third step can actually be considered ‘one size fits all’. Consistency. Consistently applying your strategy over and over, at home, at grandma’s and at the store is a huge piece to guidance and discipline success. This means that your strategy needs to be able to be implemented in all places. We don’t select one strategy for grandma’s house and a different one for the store. This is confusing to children and they may become unsure of exactly what your expectations are.

Guidance and discipline is a balance between being loving and kind while at the same time being firm and consistent.

Resources shared below have additional suggestions on age-appropriate strategies.

Disciplining Your Preschooler — Understanding Children

Disciplining Your Toddler — Understanding Children

Parenting Young Teens: Parenting in Stepfamilies

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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First a ‘Thank-You’ and then Our January 2017 Topic Punishment vs Discipline

Welcome to January 2017.

Our Science of Parenting team wanted to take just a moment to say ‘thank-you’. Thank-you for continuing to spend time with us here on our blog. Thank-you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us and thank-you for supporting our efforts to provide research based information for parents. We appreciate the messages you have sent us throughout the year and we look forward to sharing more time together with you in 2017.

We decided to start 2017 off with a topic that several of our faculty are currently researching. Punishment vs Discipline.

What’s the difference you might be asking? Great question.

When it comes to raising children, we often find parents confused on what do to when it comes to punishment or discipline. In looking at the definitions, we see a stark contrast in the two words. Punishment-to inflict injury on versus discipline-training that corrects.

This month at the Science of Parenting we are going to dive into those two words and review the research that has been done by faculty and students right here at Iowa State.

We look forward to sharing with you!

January 2017 Podcast Script

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Choosing the Chores

As I started thinking about chores and my childhood I was struck by a memory. I remembered how my sister and I divided our chores as pre-teens. We would take mom’s list, write the chores on small slips of paper, put them in a stocking hat and shake shake shake the hat. We then took turns pulling out the slips of paper. Groaning or cheering soon commenced followed by contemplative silence.

It was in this silence that I believe our ‘true’ learning happened. Imagine us analyzing our list. Carefully calculating how long the tasks would take. Considering the impact the list was about to have on our play time. Silently we would also process each other’s list in our heads. Deciphering if it might be worth it to try to trade out tasks to fit our play time plans better.  Tasks, total time and overall effort became part of the chore equation.

I would like to say that our tasks always got done… but we were just kids after all. Sometimes we spent too much time on the processing, negotiating and trading.  Other times we called in the neighborhood friends to help us finish faster and it actually took much longer than expected. Its also possible that every once in awhile mom may have shown up before the stocking hat selection even got started.

Regardless, we learned. We learned how important we were to our family unit. We learned and were proud. Proud of our creative process, our innovative ideas and our ability to negotiate to meet our own individual desires and needs. Chores weren’t always fun, but they were always at least a bit interesting.  (I wonder where that stocking hat is?)

 

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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