Let older children set their own rules.
To a point, of course, it's helpful to let older children help set the rules. This is particularly true for teenagers. Kids can even help determine what the penalty should be when they break a rule, such as curfew. You have the final say, but at the same time it helps children to participate in setting household rules.

Be consistent.
Children need to know what you expect from them by the limits you set. And you must be consistent. If there is no TV on school nights, there is no TV on school nights. Period. Stick to these rules no matter how loudly kids whine. If you let them change your mind by throwing a fit, they have won a victory that is not good for them or for you. In fact, you will have validated the outburst by giving in. Sometimes adults cave in because they feel the children won't love them if they don't. But, in the long term, children will love and respect adults more if they are consistent. And remember, consistency doesn't mean being rigid when you realize circumstances have changed.

State the rules positively.
Parents and caregivers should put a positive spin on rules. For instance, "Please put dirty clothes in the hamper," works better than, "Don't throw your dirty clothes on the floor." "Treat family with respect" is more useful than, "Don't smack your little sister." Too many "Thou Shalt Nots" encourages some children to defy authority or express anger. Even with the positive tone, you still have to be firm and consistent.

Give children choices.
You can also discipline children by giving them choices. Do they want to take a bath before or after dinner? When the kids choose the time, they have made a commitment to take a bath, which is what counts. Do they want to wear the black pants or the green pants to church? They get the choice, but you have just told them they are not wearing jeans.

Likewise, you can let them choose from a variety of foods as long as the choices are all good ones. Children who are given choices feel respected. They are also learning independence, which becomes especially important during adolescence. Children who are allowed to make small choices at young ages are better prepared to deal with the larger choices when not so young.

With proper discipline at home, kids behave well when they are away from home and out of sight of their parents or caregivers. Disciplined kids are less likely to disrupt the classroom or bully and intimidate other kids. Your self-disciplined child is someone you can count on to take responsibility for what he does and is less likely to do what others want him to. Disciplined children know the difference between right and wrong and are less likely to go wrong, and today there are a whole lot of ways to get there—illicit drug and alcohol abuse, premature sexuality, violence. You name it, someone is doing it. But it doesn't have to be your kid.
Excerpted from Come On People by Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint, MD, Copyright © 2007 by William H. Cosby Jr. and Alvin F. Poussaint, MD. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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