How and When to Start Disciplining Your Children

Setting limits and teach discipline from a very early age is advisable. The sooner we start this process, the less of a fight we will have when we introduce ‘rules’ later. Boundaries need to be introduced before your toddler reaches the age of two as this is when he will begin to test the power of ‘no’. Toddlers respond very well to learning and discipline is part of this process; it does not need to be something you dread. When boundaries become part of your daily routine, you usually find that rules become accepted, not questioned. So start early: ‘Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it’ (Proverbs 22:6). When mobility begins is the ideal time to start giving your infant boundaries in which to play, explore and develop lifetime social skills and manners. Starting before they can disagree with you will help set good habits. Nobody enjoys children who are unruly or undisciplined - children who ‘run-amok’ wherever they go, even with their parent’s presence. Children must learn what is socially acceptable and unacceptable at an early age. Unruly and demanding children will have few friends; no one will put up with their nonsense. It also follows that unruly toddlers will grow up into unruly teenagers and adults. So be prepared and start setting limits while your child is still young and eager to please.

Some strategies for setting boundaries -
  1. Use their natural desire to learn and to please by giving attention and positive reinforcement for good behaviour. Try not to fuss too much over negative behaviour this will usually only reinforce the behaviour.

  2. Ignore much of their bad behaviour by distracting you toddlers’ attention. For example, when packing toys away in preparation for bed, your toddler may throw a toy across the room, leave it and distract him by drawing attention to something else. Later, when he has calmed down, go with him and retrieve the thrown toy so that he can put it away with you.

  3. Keep in mind your toys; TV remotes, mobile phones, telephones and the like, are not your toddlers toys. He needs to learn to respect other people belongings by learning what he can and cannot play with. This means he must have your permission and supervision before he is permitted to use them.

  4. “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no’” (Matt 5:37) Don’t say something to your child unless you can follow through with the appropriate action. Don’t tell them you will do something you don’t intend to do. If you say you are going to do something then do it. If you don’t your children will not only begin to doubt your word but you will be teaching them that lies and manipulation are OK.

  5. Encourage your child to talk to you, and not to whinge at you. If you respond to their whinging by giving in to their demands you are teaching them that whinging or nagging brings the desired results. Not giving in to their demands will teach them that your word is true.

Tips: An out of control child is really just wanting someone to take control and to bring order.

Remember: Research shows that a disciplined child with well defined boundaries has higher self-esteem and confidence and is less likely to run off the rails as a teenager.


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