QuestionsCategory: Child DevelopmentHow can I get the balance right when I’m discipling my child
rjl asked 1 year ago

I find it really hard to be firm and to get the message over that I am not happy about something that has happened and that it should not happen again my children are 3years and 5 years

1 Answers
Riverside Cares Staff answered 1 year ago

Hi rjl,
You are not alone in finding it difficult to get the balance right when providing discipline. Children who are three and five years old need clear simple boundaries in order to understand if they are being told off and why. In the long run it is really worth getting this right. They will feel safer and be happier if you set clear boundaries they learn to understand. Research has shown that using a positive reward system works best in managing challenging behaviour, so a good start is to let children know what is expected and how they should behave. Giving praise and a small reward when they do well. This does not need to be anything too complicated and certainly not expensive just a simple sticker or a star chart. You can choose to do something as they build up stars or connect this to doing an activity they especially like but which you may not always have time for.  If you spot challenging behaviour which is regularly re-occuring the first step is to look to see what is causing this behaviour and any possible \’triggers\’, once these have been identified you may be able to remove the cause or come up with a strategy to change the outcome.   One common behavioural issue we often hear about is when limited time comes into play, for example a parent or caregiver wants children to do something by a certain time, when the child does not respond to this it can morph into a challenging situation. It\’s wise to remember that small children do not have a great concept of \’time\’ so consider heading this type of situation off with the help of a visual aid such as a wind up timer of some sort which they can see winding down and can help them undertsand and learn about time limits. The overarching message is try and head off getting to the stage of having to be very firm by employing preemptive strategies.  It can be a good start to sit down with both your children with a piece of paper and draw up a list of simple house rules, try and give a reason for each rule and you can ask them for ideas as well. For example: No fighting…  because you might get hurt and no one like getting hurt. No running in the house … you may bump into something. Basically keep it simple and no more the between 10-15 rules (not all in one sitting) If one of your children breaks the rules, or does something unwanted use body language and appropriate voice. Get down to their level make eye contact and clearly explain this behaviour is not acceptable and why. Tell them if they do this again they will need to have some \’Time Out\’. If they carry on the unwanted behaviour then sit them down in your designated \’Time Out\’  spot. Be clear why they are there and for how long they will remain in the \’Time Out\’ spot (which usually should be for no more than about 5 minutes) you can use the timer here too. If they do not stay in the Time Out spot then you may need to stay with them to re-enforce it. Circling back to the original question it is at times such as this, when one is discipling a child, that taking a consistent approach is key to promoting good behaviour. Make sure that it is clear to the child that it is the unwanted behaviour that is wrong rather than the child. Hence we do not use the phrase naughty children.  As they get older you may need to use other tactics such as removing a game or not allowing them to do something they enjoy as a deterrent, but if you get this right early on you are less likely to have problems later, and to be honest as soon as you become aware that there is challenging behaviour just start reacting to it even if they are already school age, it is never too late to set boundries.  As a rule of thumb, always praise positive behaviour, for example if one of your children does something to help you or their sibling or responds quickly to a request.  Ideally adults in the house should all be applying discipline in the same way to avoid children playing you off against each other. I hope this helps. Kind Regards Jill Wheatcroft Jill Wheatcroft is a Lecturer in Child Health and is co-founder and Director of Training at Riverside Cares. She can be contacted at and  Riverside Cares can create a small group training session on topics of interest ranging from parenting to first aid for babies and children