By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

The goal of parenting is to teach kids to develop self-discipline. Discipline comes from the word 'disciple' which means someone who follows the teaching of others. Discipline does not automatically mean punishment. Remember, when a child misbehaves, it is not because he/she is inherently nasty or just trying to make your life miserable. Most children do so to give vent to their anger and frustration. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't do anything about it. Some form of punishment becomes necessary, however, you should also try to understand why this behavior is going on and what corrective measures you can take.

Here are some guidelines for a healthy parent-child relationship:

  • Make sure that you set aside time on a regular basis to do something fun with your child.
  • Instead of constantly telling your child what to do, be understanding and patiently teach him/her what you want them to learn.
  • Both parents should always discuss their views on child-care among themselves. Never disagree about discipline in front of the children.
  • Never give an order, request, or command without being able to enforce it at the time.
  • Be consistent, that is, reward or punish the same behavior in the same manner as much as possible.
  • Agree with your child on what behavior is desirable and not desirable.
  • Make it as clear as possible what the child is to expect if he or she performs the undesirable behavior.
  • Make it very clear what the undesirable behavior is. Be specific and tell your child what you mean in detailed terms.
  • Look for gradual changes in behavior. Don't expect too much. Praise behavior that is coming closer to the desired goal.
  • Remember that your behavior serves as a model for your children's behavior.
  • If one of you is disciplining a child and the other enters the room, that other person should not step in on the argument in progress.
  • Reward desirable behavior as much as possible by verbal praise, touch or something tangible such as a toy, food or money.
  • Both parents should have an equal share in the responsibility of discipline as much as possible.

Effective parenting involves a good balance of discipline and love. When imparting discipline, a parent should be:

Firm: As a parent, you must state clearly why you want your child to do or not do a particular activity. You must also detail the consequences when your child continues with inappropriate behavior.

Fair: The punishment should fit the crime. Do not be too lenient or too severe on your child. Also, reward the child when he/she continues to behave properly.

Friendly: Do not yell or hit your child. Make sure that you use friendly, yet firm tone when dealing with your children. You want them to be disciplined, not scared.

Children don't learn communication and problem-solving skills quickly. It takes time and repetition in many different circumstances before they really get it. If you stay focused on teaching your children these skills and gently model the ways you want them to interact, slowly they will begin to acquire the skills.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,