Cell Phone Agreement

Cell Phone Agreement

Cell Phone Agreements

Get your free cell phone agreement to help your child stay safe and minimize power struggles

Whether you are thinking about giving your child a cell phone or you already have, it is always a good idea to have a cell phone agreement to set up some ground rules that will help protect them and minimize fights.

Whether you decide to use our free cell phone agreement or you want to just get some ideas to make your own, follow these guidelines for easier implementation and better compliance.

1. Rules should be designed around safety, allowing kids the ability to learn freedom and independence in a safe way.

2. Consequences should be designed to have immediate impact so that the expectations and enforcement are clear to the child.

3. Consequences should also be created with the idea that the impact should be just enough to stop the unacceptable behavior, allow for an opportunity to learn and be forgiven for mistakes (remember they are still learning and mistakes are to be expected) and to make the implementation and follow through easier for parents/caregivers. In short, don’t chose a consequence that is going to be too hard to follow through on or is going to make your life more miserable than your child’s, resulting in you changing the consequence after the fact.

4. Make sure you talk about the rules and have the contract signed at a time when everyone is available to have the discussion without being rushed. Allow kids a chance to question the rules and consequences and settle on something everyone can live with. Don’t expect a child to follow rules or accept consequences that you have not explained clearly to them beforehand, even if it does seem like a no brainer to you.

Click below for a free cell phone agreement. Use it as a way to open a conversation about what cell phone expectations are, consequences for misuse and to keep everyone on the same page.

Access your free cell phone agreement here

Disciplining a Teenager

Disciplining a Teenager

Disciplining a Teenager

Disciplining a teenager does not need to be stressful. Read this article for helpful tips on disciplining your teen

With the teen years come a whole new set of disciplinary questions for parents. Because teen behavior is naturally riskier, which is developmentally normal, that riskier behavior can potentially lead to bigger consequences. This often leads parents to question where to draw lines, how to discipline a teenager and better yet, how to get a teenager to control their own impulses to stop bad behavior before it even starts.

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Introduction to Disciplining Teenagers

The goal for all discipline is to teach your child how to control their impulses and self-correct their behavior. The teenage years include additional challenges for parents as both parent and child embark in the separation process necessary for a successful launch into young adulthood. Preparing for this launch during the teenage years requies a parent to once again shift how they discipline their child.

  1. Set appropriate rules for your teen
  2. Don’t be afraid to go back to an earlier stage of discipline
  3. Help your teen make good decisions

Set Appropriate Rules for Your Teenager

How to draw your lines

Disciplining a teenager requires a parent to figure out where the boundaries are while honoring a teens need to grow into independence

As a child grows, there are different rules a parent must incorporate.

Non-negotiable rules are rules for the welfare of the child or for others. They are rules which teach safety, compliance and set the limits of behavior. For example, ‘don’t drink and drive’. These non-negotiable type of rules make up the majority of the parent’s rules when a child is young and lessen in number as a child grows older.

Negotiable rules are rules to teach responsibility and thinking skills. These rules can be harder for parents because they are often in the gray areas of parenting. Negotiable rules set out an overall expectation, but leave the specifics up to the child. For example, ‘your weekly chores must be completed by Sunday at 6:00’. In this example, the parent has specified the expectation for chores to be completed and by when, but has left the teen to problem solve and plan for when and how they will complete all their chores by the deadline.

When a child is young, there should be no  negotiable rules because they are not developmentally ready. But as a child grows older, especially when they enter into adolescence, there should be more negotiable rules and less non-negotiable rules.

If you struggle with creating negotiable rules, start by basing them off of safety concerns or family values. You can watch videos about having a family meeting and defining your family values on our resources page.

As you get more used to the idea of negotiable rules, you can invite your teen to contribute to the creation of negotiable rules. It is a great way to teach them self-discipline, problem solving and acceptance of the rules.

Have just 10 rules as your core rules to start, more than that can feel overwhelming for both you and your teen. You can always adjust the ratio of negotiable and non-negotiable rules if you have a younger teen or a teen that needs more guidance. Remember, you are working toward the majority of the rules for your teenager being negotiable rules.

Creating Consequences

Disciplining a teenager requires a parent to set up consequences ahead of time, with input from their teen

Once you have your rules created, it is time to define the logical consequences that go with each rule. Logical consequences for behavior are consequences that make sense as a result of an action or behavior, and the more natural the consequence the better.

For example, using our rule from above, let’s say your teen does not get all of their chores done by Sunday at 6:00. A logical consequence may be that they need to give up the rest of their Sunday night to complete all the chores, regardless if they had plans. Or if their chores are tied to an allowance maybe the logical consequence means your teen doesn’t receive an allowance that week or they pay you the amount of their allowance.

Below are the guidelines to create effective consequences for disciplining a teenager:

  1. The consequence must somehow be linked to the behavior the rule addresses, the more logical or natural the better.
  2. The consequence must occur immediately after the behavior or in the very near future to be effective. This means if something happens on Tuesday your consequence should not wait to be enforced until the weekend. If the infraction occurs on Tuesday the consequence should also occur on Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.
  3. The consequence must be consistently applied. That means every time the rule is broken the same consequence occurs, without fail. Consequences do not need to be harsh and long to be effective, if anything that just makes it harder to enforce or creates more push back from you teen. So make it easy on yourself and keep it short and simple, but consistent. Most of the time 1 to 7 days for a consequence is enough. If an offense is particularly egregious or there is a pattern of behavior or escalating behavior, then the rule itself should be changed to a non-negotiable rule with more structured consequences rather than extending consequences for a longer period of time.
Tip: The consequences for each rule should be set at the time the rule is created, not after the fact and not on the fly.

It is also important to tell your teen the consequence for each rule in advance, when there has not yet been a rule violation. This provides your teen an opportunity to ask questions and participate in a discussion about the consequence so they can learn and agree to the consequence before it needs to be enforced. Advance warning also ensures fairness in the eyes of your teen and therefore results in better compliance.

So now you know how to set rules for your teenager, but what happens when they break the rules?

How to discipline a teenager

Don’t be afraid to go back to an earlier stage of discipline

Disciplining a teenager requires a parent to allow for freedom, but pull back that freedom when a teen is showing signs of needing more support.

Teenagers are going to make mistakes, they are going to break rules. It is part of their job at this age.

We touched a little on logical consequence setting and implementation above and that is definitely a huge part of disciplining a teenager. Remember consistency is key so if you struggle with that, don’t worry you are not alone. Sometimes we are busy or we don’t have energy and we just let things slide. Or sometimes consistency is just something that is personally hard for us. To help with consistency, make sure you are setting yourself up for success by making realistic consequences – simple and short.

Tip: Post your rules, with the consequence right underneath it, in a common area of your house where your teen will see it on a daily basis. That way when your teen breaks a rule you can simply reference the consequence on display.

When you do need to enforce a consequence, make it as matter of fact as possible. Simply acknowledge they broke a rule and reference the consequence. If your teen pushes back, stay as neutral as possible, repeat the consequence, remind them this was what was agreed upon earlier and that if they would like to change the consequence you would be open to discussing it at the next family meeting, but for now the consequence stands.

It can also help to have a backup consequence that has been agreed upon with your teen in advance for when a teen refuses a consequence. This can be one standard consequence for all refusals.

For example, “if you refuse a set consequence, you forfeit your phone (or maybe the car) for 24 hours”.

This way if your teen breaks a rule and then they start giving you a hard time about the set consequence or they refuse the consequence that is already set you can remind them what the consequence is if they refuse to comply. Then offer them a choice to accept the set consequence or the consequence for not accepting the set consequence.

Again, remain as neutral as possible with your voice and only offer them the choice once. After that, if they refuse to choose then you automatically enforce the consequence for refusing the set consequence. If your teen is still trying to argue with you, you can remind them when the consequence will end (in our example in 24 hours), that they can choose differently next time and then just walk away*.

But what happens when a rule is broken repeatedly and the consequence does not seem to be working?

When a Consequence Does not work

Disciplining a teenager can make you feel like it is an uphill battle, we can help provide solutions that work

Tip: You’ll know a consequence is working when it makes your teen stop before engaging in inappropriate behavior. A consequence is also working when it causes your teen to pause before engaging in inappropriate behavior or learn from the mistake.

An effective consequence does not mean 100% compliance all of the time or that your teen will never make mistakes and break a rule. An effective consequence creates space for awareness so that your teen can consider their actions and learn to make a conscious choice before engaging in behavior using their logic, not impulse. This takes lots of practice and additional brain development.

So give rules and consequences a little time before deciding whether or not it is working. If it is not working, take a look at the consequence first. If it violates any of the 3 formulas for creation, start by fixing the consequence and try again. You can also have a conversation with your teen about what might be a better consequence to help curb their behavior.

If the consequence is not the problem, then perhaps the rule does not provide enough structure for your teen. The goal of discipline is to build stamina and self-control and there will be times when your teen may need to go back to more structure in order to succeed. This is normal. View disciplining a teenager as a fluid process.

Do not be afraid to pull back a negotiable rule and create more structure whenever your teen or the circumstances indicate they need more help.

But before you add back in structure, in essence taking away some of your teenager’s freedom and independence, make sure the rule change is actually warranted or you could be sabotaging your teenager’s confidence and your teen’s trust in your parenting authority.

Parent from a place of support, not fear

Disciplinging a teenager requires parents to keep their fears in check.

Sometimes, a teen can trigger a fear reaction in a parent because they do really risky things. A parent’s fear response usually comes out as anger and outrage and sparks a knee jerk reaction to immediately take back control to protect their child out of love and ease their own anxiety.

That is a natural human reaction as a parent. And if our only job as parents was to ensure the survival of our teen, that would be an appropriate reaction all of the time. But remember our job as a parent is to not just ensure temporary survival, but to ensure the successful launch of our teen into the world to navigate and survive independent of us.

So once again, parenting and disciplining your teenager becomes more of a gray area to navigate. So when you enter this gray area of whether or not to reign in your teen’s freedom and reinstate more structure, you should ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. Has this rule/behavior been a recurring problem in the past?
  2. Was the offense so egregious that a one-time only offense warrants a change?

If you can answer ‘Yes’ to either of these questions after you have calmed down, then you can proceed to the next step, which is having a conversation with your teen about why you feel a change in rules to create more structure is necessary.

This conversation should be held only when everyone is calm. That may mean it needs to wait an hour or sometimes a day or two depending on how high emotions are.

Help your teenager make good decisions

How to help your teenager control their impulses

Disciplining teenagers is about teaching and supporting your teen

Teaching your teen how to identify their mistakes and modeling how to fix them paves the road for them being able to control their own impulses and correct their own behavior; a parent’s ultimate goal.

When your teenager is struggling with a rule or responsibility or they have made a serious error in judgment, explain to them what you are observing and ask them to talk about why they think they are having trouble. By leading your teen through a self-discovery journey into their behavior they can learn better solutions for future circumstances.

Below are some questions you can use to begin a conversation with your teen. Again, make sure this conversation occurs only when everyone is calm. And always start by giving your teen the chance to talk first.

  • What happened?
  • How did you feel?
  • Why do you think it is hard to follow this rule?
  • Is there anything I can do to help you succeed?
  • How would you change this rule or the consequence if you could?

When you have this conversation, practice reflective listening so your teen really feels heard. A lot of the time a teen will accept rule changes and consequences as long as they feel their opinion has really been heard. So when your teen tells you their story and why they broke the rule, repeat it back to them. For example, “you snuck out of the house to be with your friends because you felt like you were going to miss something important and that the rule was unfair”.

Remember: Reflective listening does not mean you need to agree with your teen or even that they are going to get away with their behavior. You are simply granting them space to hear them and acknowledge them.

End the conversation with, “is there anything else you think I should know”. Make sure you have given them the opportunity to say everything they want to say and you have reflected it back to them, then you can say how you view their behavior and your opinions.

Sometimes, your teen will provide insight that will allow you to work together to amend the rules and consequences so your teen can succeed. This is growing the tools necessary for a teenager to control their impulses and behavior.

Other times, your teen might not know why they are struggling or they may not want to participate in the conversation or problem solving process.

If the latter occurs, you can detail how you are going to change the rule and give them a chance to make any comments they would like.

If you end up taking away a negotiable rule and replacing it with a non-negotiable rule, make sure you have a plan to revisit the rule at a later date. Remember, the goal for disciplining your teenager is self-control. You are only putting the training wheels back on the bike until your teen regains their balance.

Set a time for 3 weeks or a month out to revisit the rule to see if the rule can go back to a negotiable rule based on how your teen is responding. Let your teen know at the time of the rule change when you plan to revisit this rule.

Also, it always helps to end the conversation with “I love you, you are going to make mistakes and that is okay. I’m here to help you get back on track and I know you will do better next time”.

By ending the conversation with confidence in your teen, you are setting them up for success and giving them confidence in themselves. You are teaching your teenager resiliency and self-confidence.

Often the hardest part of this process for a parent is to listen without interrupting your teen or trying to logic with them about why their behavior was in error. Do your best to hold off on interrupting and lecturing. It takes practice, so keep trying because the payoffs with your teen are huge.

A teenager who feels heard and seen by their parent will develop more trust and closeness with their parent and will naturally work to follow the rules.

Remember to grant yourself and your teen some grace. It is hard being a teenager and navigating the body, brain and hormonal changes that come with this stage of life as well as all of the social aspects of adolescence. It is also important to remember that it is the first time you have ever parented this particular child in this particular situation, so it is okay to stumble and not know what to do and to even make mistakes. Share those stumbles and mistakes with your child to remind you both that you are human and that you are both going through this transition together.

*Note: The above tips are meant to help the majority of parents. Teenagers who struggle with certain disorders, high sensitivity or trauma may need a different approach that is individualized to their needs and how they best respond. Sometimes walking away from a teenager in distress when they have these additional challenges is not the best thing to do and can lead to further escalation for the teen. If you would like to discuss personalized options for your child, we invite you to schedule a free 30 minute consultation with us so we can tailor tips that would work best for your family.

A note to our BIPOC community members

We are here to support our BIPOC community members in finding the right solution for disciplining teenagers

As a certified parent coach we recognize the struggles and adversities our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities face. We also understand that due to systemic racism and racial bias, BIPOC teenagers do not have the safety and advantage of behaving in the same manner as white children and therefore their culture of disciple is different than white culture.

We recognize the use of punishment as a parenting tool is prevalent in BIPOC communities because BIPOC parents and caregivers must protect their teenagers from an unforgiving and biased white culture because the consequences of failed discipline outside of the BIPOC community can mean death or imprisonment.

We do not condemn or judge any parent for parenting the best they can with the tools they have and we always acknowledge the effects culture and an environment of adverse challenges and systemic racism has on both parents and children.

We seek to help all BIPOC parents and caregivers who need parenting support in a culturally informed way to meet the needs of each individual family.

Please schedule a free consultation to see how we can support you.

Disciplining school age children (ages 9 – 13)

Disciplining school age children (ages 9 – 13)

Disciplining school age children

(ages 9 – 13)

We can assist parents with disciplining school age dhildren, ages 9 -13

Age 9 is a time when typically there is a lot of change in a child developmentally. And with change brings a whole new set of questions on how to discipline school age children during their transition from younger childhood to the teenage years. Parents often question where to draw lines, how to discipline an older child and how to get an older child to start controlling their own behavior.

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Introduction to Disciplining School Age Children

Ages 9 thru 13

The goal for all discipline is to teach your child how to control their impulses and self-correct their behavior. And the good news is that the older your child gets, the more developmentally ready they are to do those things, but they still need a lot of structure at this age.

  1. Set appropriate rules for your school aged child (ages 9-13)
  2. Create age appropriate consequences
  3. Set your child up for success

Set appropriate rules for your school age child

How to draw your lines

Starting to incorporate negotiable rules when disciplining school age children, age 9 thru 13, is an important step towards fostering independence

As a child grows, there are different rules a parent must incorporate.

Non-negotiable rules are rules for the welfare of the child or for others. They are rules which teach safety, compliance and set the limits of behavior. For example, ‘you must tell a parent before you go anywhere with a friend’. These non-negotiable type of rules make up the majority of the rules when a child is young and lessen in number as a child grows older.

Negotiable rules are rules to teach responsibility and thinking skills. These rules can be harder for parents because they are often in the gray areas of parenting. Negotiable rules set out an overall expectation, but leave the specifics up to the child. For example, ‘your weekly chores must be completed by Sunday at 6:00’. In this example, the parent has specified the expectation for chores to be completed and by when, but has left the child to problem solve and plan for when and how they will complete all their chores by the deadline.

During the younger childhood years, there should be no negotiable rules because developmentally they are not ready. But as a child grows older and reaches age 9, you should start to incorporate negotiable rules. There should be 1 or 2 when your child is 9 – 10 and then slowly continue to increase the number so that by adolescence there is more negotiable rules and less non-negotiable rules.

If you struggle with creating rules, start by basing them off of safety concerns or family values. You can watch videos about having a family meeting and defining your family values on our resources page.

As you get more used to the idea of negotiable rules, you can invite your older child to contribute to the creation of negotiable rules. It is a great way to teach them self-discipline, problem solving and acceptance of the rules.

Have just 10 rules as your core rules to start, more than that can feel overwhelming for both you and your child. For example, you can have a rule that states ‘we treat everyone with respect and kindness, including ourselves’. This rule can encompass any infraction for fighting, talking back, bullying, etc. So if you have a rule like this, and you receive notification from the school that your child hit another child you can say, ‘in our family, we treat everyone with respect and kindness, including ourselves. We do not hit because it is not kind or respectful. If you want someone to to stop doing something, you need to say stop or you need to walk away or get help from a teacher’.

Create age appropriate consequences

How to discipline your school age child (age 9 – 13)

Although they are not toddlers anymore, older kids are still going to make mistakes, they are going to break rules. It is part of how they continue to learn.

Once you have your rules created, it is time to define the logical consequences that go with each rule. Logical consequences for behavior are consequences that make sense as a result of an action or behavior, and the more natural the consequence the better.

Below are the guidelines to create effective consequences for children:

  1. The consequence must somehow be linked to the behavior the rule it addresses, the more logical or natural the better.
  2. The consequence must occur immediately after the behavior or in the very near future to be effective. This means if something happens on Tuesday your consequence should not wait to be enforced until the weekend. If the infraction occurs on Tuesday the consequence should also occur on Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest if it happened late Tuesday night.
  3. The consequence must be consistently applied. That means every time the rule is broken the same consequence occurs, without fail. Consequences do not need to be harsh and long to be effective, if anything that just makes it harder to enforce or creates more push back from your child. So make it easy on yourself and keep it short and simple, but consistent. If your child breaks a rule have the consequence last for the rest of the day or for the next day if it is late in the day. It does not need to be longer than that to be effective.

Tip: The consequences for each rule should be set at the time the rule is created, not after the fact and not on the fly.

It is also important to tell to your child the consequence for each rule in advance, when there has not yet been a rule violation. This provides your child an opportunity to ask questions and participate in a discussion about the consequence so they can learn and agree to the consequence before it needs to be enforced. Advance warning also ensures fairness in the eyes of your child and therefore results in better compliance.

Additional ways to make consequences more effective

When disciplining school age children, age 9 - 13, providing limited choices that allow a child to help curb their own behavior is good

Giving your child a choice in their consequence can help with compliance. Keep it simple, and only offer choices that follow the guidelines for effective consequences.

For example, let’s say your child is caught taking money from your wallet without asking permission. You can give them a choice to either return the money with an apology or they can apologize and take on extra chores to earn the money they took. Once the consequence has been completed make sure you close the discipline loop by discussing with your child how their behavior was inappropriate and how you expect them to act the next time. For example, ‘thank you for apologizing for taking money without asking. In this family, we do not take from others without asking first. Next time, when you feel you need money you need to ask first or ask to earn more money’.

Tip: Create a consequence choice for when your child keeps doing the same inappropriate behavior over and over to help them learn self-control

For example, your child keeps talking disrespectfully to you. You tell them ‘in our family we treat everyone with respect and kindness. That language and tone towards me is not acceptable’ then have your child try talking to you again. But what happens when your child keeps talking disrespectfully towards you because they really want to get your attention and the easiest way to do that is to get you riled up?

That is where the consequence choice comes in. You can give your child a choice of consequences, they can either apologize and re-try with respectful behavior, or they can lose all screen time until they are ready to apologize and re-try with respectful behavior. You can add that if they don’t stop talking disrespectfully or make a choice, then you will make the choice for them and it will be losing screen time (chose the more restrictive consequence of the two).

By giving your child a choice as to what consequence they choose and telling them what you will chose, you are both previewing what is going to happen, and giving your child a chance to figure out how to control their own behavior.

Tips for disciplining a child

Family meetings can aid parents in disciplining school age children

Parents can find disciplining their school age child more difficult than disciplining younger children because their child may give more push back and refusals to comply. Consistency, family meetings and remaining as neutral as you can when you are enforcing the consequences will help your child to learn the expected behavior and reduce the push back and refusals. It can also help to practice the consequence when everything is calm and no rules have been broken.

EYE CONTACT- Don’t require your child to look you in the eyes when they are distressed or for apologies if they are trying to avoid eye contact. Children truly feel bad when they have done something wrong and making your child look you in the eyes to apologize can feel too overwhelming, triggering feelings of shame and fear, which then can escalate their behavior. When your child is calm, that is a time you can request they look you in the eyes to talk about family rules and how they can do better the next time.

KNOW YOUR CHILD – Understand your child and their capabilities when you set your consequences. If your child has a disorder, special needs, high sensitivity or a history of trauma or intense emotions, consequences need to be adjusted to match your child. This will help your child succeed more and will make you feel more successful as a parent. If you need help with setting consequences for your child, we happily offer a free, no-obligation 30 minute consultation to get you set up.

Tip: Shame can be an unintended consequence of discipline so to help avoid this remind your child what the family rule is by beginning with ‘in this family…’ and use ‘we’ when correcting their behavior.

How to help with consistency

Remember for discipline, consistency is key. If you struggle with that, don’t worry you are not alone. Sometimes we are busy or we don’t have energy and we just let things slide. Or sometimes consistency is just something that is personally hard for us. To help with consistency, make sure you are setting yourself up for success as a parent by making realistic consequences for your child – simple and short.

Tip: Post your rules, with the consequence right underneath it, in a common area of your house where your child will see it on a daily basis (pictures work great for this). That way when your child breaks a rule you can simply reference the consequence on display.

How to enforce consequences

When you do need to enforce a consequence, make it as matter of fact as possible. Simply tell your child they broke a rule and reference the consequence.

If your child throws a fit or pushes back, stay as neutral as possible and reflect their feelings back to them. For example, ‘you are feeling really mad right now. You think this is unfair’. Keep your phrasing short and your words simple. Do this until your child calms down. Once you can tell your child is calmer, ask them to express their feelings in their own words or in a drawing if that is easier for them.

Use reflective listening to repeat how they feel and get confirmation that you heard them correctly. End by repeating the rule and the consequence in a matter of fact manner, and offer to help them transition to the consequence. For example, ‘would you like to hand me your device or should I go and get it?’ or ‘would you like a hug before or after you are done?’.

Sometimes kids just need help with that transition to get them back on track. It is also important for your child to feel your love since their own emotions, as well as a parent’s reaction, can feel overwhelming and scary to them at times. So tell your child you still love them while enforcing the consequence.

Set your child up for success

How to help a school age child (age 9 – 13) learn self control

A huge part of discipling a school age child, age 9 thru 13, is having deeper conversations about their behavior

Viewing discipline in the school age years as mostly a time for continuing to teach your child what is expected while granting them little tastes of independence to test their learning will set you up for success and help your child begin to learn impulse control.

To be an effective teacher for your school age child, it is important that you talk with your child about their behavior when they are calm and what to do the next time. A child who is age 9 – 13 years old, has more executive functioning, working memory and context than a younger child so you can talk more about why their behavior is inappropriate. You can also talk about how feelings and society factor into rules, but all this must be done when the child is calm in order for learning to occur. And you should still keep it relatively brief. While they are developmentally ready to learn some impulse control, it will still take until their 20s before they gain full control.

Additionally, children are still very focused on themselves at this age and so they need to be taught how their actions can impact others. It is not yet intuitive.

Finally, if you want your child to behave differently, you have to tell them exactly how you want them to act the next time.

The most critical step in disciplining a child is telling them what to do the next time. A lot of parents think what a child should do next time is obvious so they simply say, ‘don’t do that again’ and leave it at that. But that does not tell your child what you expect them to do the next time.

If you want your child to succeed and behave differently, you have to tell them exactly how you want them to act.

Want to speed up your child’s learning process?

Role playing with your child when you are playing or talking with them can really help them remember and practice. You can also teach discipline by asking questions or discussing consequences while you are watching a show with your child or reading a book together. For example, ‘do you think that character did the right thing? Why or why not? What do you think would have been a better way to do things?’.

Finally, asking your child the following questions can help them build their problem solving and conflict resolution skills which will help grow their skills to control their impulses.

  • What happened?
  • How did you feel?
  • What do you think I/another person is feeling right now – help explain how you or another person might be feeling if your child does not know. This is theory of mind – being able to figure out what another person may be thinking or feeling – and is an important social development step you can help foster*
  • What do you think can be done to fix this?
  • Is there anything I can do to help you succeed?

How Reflective Listening can Help with discipline

Discipling school age children, ages 9 thru 13, will be more effective if you incorporate reflective listening

When you have a conversation with your child, practice reflective listening so your child really feels heard. A lot of the time a child will accept rules and consequences as long as they feel their opinion has really been heard. So when you child tells you their story and why they broke a rule, repeat it back to them. For example, “you copied your friend’s work because you were scared you would get the answers wrong and you thought that would make me mad or disappointed”.

Remember: Reflective listening does not mean you agree with your child or even that they are going to get away with their behavior. You are simply granting them space to hear them and acknowledge them.

End the conversation with, “is there anything else you think I should know”. Make sure you have given them the opportunity to say everything they want to say and you have reflected it back to them, then you can say how you view their behavior and your opinions.

Often the hardest part of this process for a parent is to listen without interrupting your child or trying to logic with them about why their behavior was in error. Do your best to hold off on interrupting and lecturing. It takes practice, so keep trying because the payoffs with your child are huge.

Tip: A child who feels heard and seen by their parent will develop more trust and closeness with their parent and will naturally work to follow the rules.

How to begin setting your school age child (age 9 – 13) up for independence

This age is all about learning and transition, so that means the rules you have need to be very fluid.

You should start with 1 or 2 negotiable rules when your child is 9 or 10, but if your child struggles with those negotiable rules, don’t be afraid to pull the negotiable rule and replace it with a non-negotiable rule for a while. For example, let’s say you have a rule that your child can go over to a friend’s house in the neighborhood as long as they tell you where and when they are going. But you find out your child has been going to the corner gas station to buy candy when you thought they were over at their friend’s house. You first want to start by having a conversation with your child about the purpose of the rule and the impact of them breaking the rule. Then apply the pre-determined consequence for breaking the rule. Based on your individual child and their past behavior, if you can, give your child another chance to follow the rule by restating your expectation and the consequence.

If you feel your child needs more structure based on their past behaviors or continued non-compliance then replace the negotiable rule with a non-negotiable rule like ‘a parent must take you to and from your friend’s house; you are not allowed to go places without a parent’.

If you end up taking away a negotiable rule and replacing it with a non-negotiable rule, make sure you have a plan to revisit the rule at a later date.

Remember: The goal for disciplining your child is self-control. You are only putting the training wheels back on the bike until your child regains their balance.

So set a time for 3 weeks or a month out to revisit the rule to see if the rule can go back to a negotiable rule based on how your child is responding. If you feel your child has not grown or demonstrated they can handle the negotiable rule yet, then leave it as non-negotiable for longer or create a new negotiable rule that still grants freedom, but a little less freedom than the other rule.

Final thoughts

Whenever you are disciplining your child, it always helps to end the conversation with “I love you, you are going to make mistakes and that is okay. I’m here to help you get back on track and I know you will do better next time”.

By ending the conversation with love and confidence in your child, you are setting them up for success and giving them confidence in themselves.

Remember to grant yourself and your child some grace. It is important to remember that it is the first time you have ever parented this particular child in this particular stage, so it is okay to stumble and not know what to do and to make mistakes. Share those stumbles and mistakes with your child to remind you both that you are human and that you are both going through this learning process together.

*Note: The above tips are meant to help the majority of parents. Children who struggle with certain disorders, high sensitivity or trauma may need a different approach that is individualized to their needs and how they best respond. Children with neurological disorders, such as autism, struggle with developing theory of mind and benefit from more involved intervention to help develop this skill. While you can assist your child who has special needs in developing this skill, it will generally take longer to develop. If you would like to discuss personalized options for your child, we invite you to schedule a free 30 minute consultation with us so we can tailor tips that would work best for your family.

A note to our BIPOC community members

As a certified parent coach we recognize the struggles and adversities our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities face. We also understand that due to systemic racism and racial bias, BIPOC children do not have the safety and advantage of behaving in the same manner as white children and therefore their culture of discipline is different than white culture.

We recognize the use of punishment as a parenting tool is prevalent in BIPOC communities because BIPOC parents and caregivers must protect their children from an unforgiving and biased white culture because the consequences of failed discipline outside of the BIPOC community can have serious consequences, especially as a child grows.

We do not condemn or judge any parent for parenting the best they can with the tools they have and we always acknowledge the effects culture and an environment of adverse challenges and systemic racism has on both parents and children.

We seek to help all BIPOC parents and caregivers who need parenting support in a culturally informed way to meet the needs of each individual family.

Please schedule a free consultation to see how we can support you.

Disciplining Children (Toddlers thru Age 8)

Disciplining Children (Toddlers thru Age 8)

Disciplining Children

Toddler thru Age 8

Tools and tips for disciplining children, toddler thru age 8

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Introduction To Disciplining Children

Toddler thru age 8

The goal for all discipline is to teach your child how to control their impulses and self-correct their behavior, which can be a difficult feat for children under the age of 8 because they are mostly acting on impulse, which is developmentally normal. When it comes to disciplining your child, from toddler to approximately age 8, think of this time as laying the foundation for future years.

  1. Set appropriate rules for your child
  2. Create age appropriate consequences for your child
  3. Set your child up for success

Set Appropriate Rules For Your Child

How to draw your lines

Disciplining children, toddler thru age 8, starts with setting clear boundaries

As a child grows, there are different rules a parent must incorporate.

Non-negotiable rules are rules for the welfare of the child or for others. They are rules which teach safety, compliance and set the limits of behavior. For example, ‘we don’t hit others’. These non-negotiable type of rules make up the majority of the rules when a child is young and lessen in number as a child grows older.

Negotiable rules are rules to teach responsibility and thinking skills. These rules can be harder for parents because they are often in the gray areas of parenting. Negotiable rules set out an overall expectation, but leave the specifics up to the child. For example, ‘you must pick up your toys before you can watch TV’. In this example, the parent has specified the expectation for toys to be cleaned up and by when, but has left the child to problem solve and plan for when and how they will complete the task.

As the parent of a child under the age of 9, you do not need to worry about creating negotiable rules at this point. You can often incorporate a few choices into your non-negotiable rules and that is usually enough to gain compliance from your child. As your child becomes older, you can transition to discipline for older kids and you can start to create one or two negotiable rules if you feel your child is ready.

If you struggle with creating non-negotiable rules, start by basing them off of safety concerns or family values. You can watch videos about having a family meeting and defining your family values on our resources page if you need help with this process.

Keep your rules to just 10 in number. More than that can feel overwhelming for both you and your toddler. For example, you can have a rule that states ‘we treat everyone with respect and kindness, including ourselves’. This rule can encompass any infraction for hitting, biting, kicking, name calling, bullying, disrespectful speech, etc. So if you have a rule like this, and your child pushes another child down while playing you can say, ‘in our family, we treat everyone with respect and kindness, including ourselves. We do not push because it is not kind. If you want your friend to to stop doing something, you need to say please stop that’.

Create Age Appropriate Consequences

How to discipline your child (toddler thru age 8)

Disciplining children, toddler thru age 8, does not mean harsh punishments, but rather quick, simple consequences

Children are going to make mistakes, they are going to break rules. It is part of how they learn.

Once you have your rules created, it is time to define the logical consequences that go with each rule. Logical consequences for behavior are consequences that make sense as a result of an action or behavior, and the more natural the consequence the better.

Below are the guidelines to create effective consequences for children:

  1. The consequence must somehow be linked to the behavior the rule it addresses, the more logical or natural the better.
  2. The consequence must occur immediately after the behavior to be effective.
  3. The consequence must be consistently applied. That means every time the rule is broken the same consequence occurs, without fail. Consequences do not need to be harsh and long to be effective, if anything that just makes it harder to enforce or it loses effectiveness with your child because their impulse control is not yet developed. So make it easy on yourself and keep it short and simple, but consistent. If your child breaks a rule and you elect to give them a time out for their behavior, make it last only one minute for how old they are, meaning 2-8 minutes max. It does not need to be longer than that to be effective.
Tip: Consequences for each rule should be set at the time the rule is created, not after the fact and not on the fly.

It is also important to tell to your child the consequence for each rule in advance, when there has not yet been a rule violation. This provides your child an opportunity to hear the consequence before it needs to be enforced since they will often be in an emotional state when you are trying to enforce a consequence. It can also be very helpful to practice consequences so once again, your child knows what to do when a rule is broken. This helps with compliance and helps to eliminate shame. By practicing consequences when there has been no rule breaking children learn this is simply what is done.

Example of How To Teach Your Child Consequences

Let’s use time outs as an example. While you are having fun with your child, tell them that you are both going to practice taking a time out. You can explain that they can take a time out anytime they feel overwhelmed or too excited, but that sometimes they might be told to take a time out if a parent feels they need time to calm down. Then you show them where you want them to take their time out. Depending on your child, this can be in the same room or in a different room. Wherever you decide, make sure there are no distractions/toys for your child to play with since your ultimate goal is to calm your child.

One caveat is books, which can be a good tool for a child to calm down if they have a hard time doing so on their own. Then say you are going to practice going nicely to the time out area. Tell your child that when you tell them to go to the time out area, they need to walk there quickly and sit there until you tell them they can stop. The first few times walk your child over and show them how you expect them to sit and what you expect them to do, i.e. stay quiet, look at books, etc. Then, almost as soon as they go over there and get into position, call them out of it and give heartfelt appreciation for their listening. Make sure to give them a little hug and make a big deal out of them listening to you. Then practice again 2-3 more times. Make these practices fun, and feel free to be playful while  teaching them to go to the time out area.

Now your child has learned what is expected behavior when you tell them to take a time out. This will help with their compliance in real life when you tell them what to do. This was just an example, but previewing the expectation for a consequence can work with any consequence you come up with.

Disciplining children using time outs can be effective if you follow a couple of guidelines

A special note about time outs

Time outs can work well for most children, but some children react very negatively to being separated and it can trigger a bigger meltdown. If your child escalates their behavior when separated, practice using a time in instead, where your child comes and sits by you and you help lead them in a calming activity such as looking at books together, deep breathing or drawing together. This will teach your child what they can do to calm down and provide them a safe space to do it in.

Additional Ways To Make Consequences More Effective

Giving your child a choice in their consequence can help with compliance. Keep it simple, and only offer choices that follow the guidelines for effective consequences.

For example, if your child hits another child, you can say ‘in our family we treat everyone with respect and kindness, including ourselves. We do not hit others because it is not kind. Now you may either apologize to your friend now for hitting them or you may have a time out and apologize after that’. Once the consequence has been completed make sure you close the discipline loop by telling your child how you expect them to act the next time. For example, ‘thank you for apologizing for hitting. Next time, when you feel that mad you can tell your friend to stop with your words or you can find me for help’.

An example for a school age child is when your child talks back to you and refuses to do a task. You can reference the same rule, ‘in our family we treat everyone with respect and kindness, including ourselves. We do not talk back or refuse to do work for the family because it is not respectful or kind. Now you may apologize and do the task or you may have a time out before you apologize and do the task’. Once again you would want to make sure you close the discipline loop by telling your child how you expect them to act the next time. For example, ‘thank you for apologizing for talking back and refusing my directions. Next time, you may express your frustration by stating you are frustrated and perhaps requesting to get to a good stopping point first’.

Tip: Create a consequence choice for when your child keeps doing the same inappropriate behavior over and over to help them learn self-control

For example, your toddler keeps knocking over another child’s tower of blocks. You tell them ‘in our family, we do not destroy other people’s work’ or ‘in our family if we make a mess we help clean it up’ and have your child help the child clean up the blocks and apologize. But what happens when your toddler gets excited by knocking down the tower (as so many toddlers do) so they just keep doing it because that is the real game to them. That is where the consequence choice comes in. You can give your toddler a choice of consequences, they can either help rebuild the tower and then play with the blocks in a way that does not destroy the tower, or they can take a time out to calm down and then chose an activity away from the blocks. You can add that if they don’t stop knocking down the blocks or make a choice, then you will make the choice for them and it will be a time out (chose the more restrictive consequence of the two).

An example for a school age child is when they are harassing or annoying a sibling. You tell them ‘in our family we treat everyone with respect and kindness, including ourselves. We do not harass or annoy others when they have asked that we stop’, but your child just can’t control their impulse for attention so the behavior continues. You can give your child a choice of consequences, they can either remove themselves from the area and choose a new activity or they can have a time out and then you will choose something for them to do, like a chore. Again, you can add that if they don’t stop annoying their sibling or make a choice, then you will make the choice for them and it will be a time out and you will choose their activity after that (chose the more restrictive consequence of the two).

By giving your child a choice as to what consequence they choose and informing them what consequence you will chose, you are both previewing what is going to happen and giving your child a chance to figure out how to control their own behavior.

Tips About Consequences

Disciplining children requires a paremt to understand their child's abilities and meet them where they are at

HUGS – Don’t make your child give hugs as a way of apologizing. Some children naturally like to give hugs as a way to apologize and some children really do not and will try to escape if told to do so. It is important to know which camp your child falls into, but also to teach your child about consent and control of their bodies even from a young age. Therefore if your child is a hugger, you should teach them how to ask for permission before they give a hug. If your child is not a hugger, it is important you don’t force your child to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable and teach them acceptable language for how to say no to hugs nicely.

EYE CONTACT – Don’t require your child to look you in the eyes when they are distressed or for apologies if they are trying to avoid eye contact. Children truly feel bad when they have done something wrong and making your child look you in the eyes to apologize can feel too overwhelming to some children, triggering feelings of shame and fear, which then can escalate their behavior. When your child is calm, that is a time you can request they look you in the eye to talk about family rules and how they can do better the next time.

KNOW YOUR CHILD – Understand your child and their capabilities when you set your consequences. If your child has a disorder, special needs, high sensitivity or a history of trauma or intense emotions, consequences need to be adjusted to match your child. This will help your child succeed more and will make you feel more successful as a parent. If you need help with setting consequences for your child, we happily offer a free, no-obligation 30 minute consultation to help you get you set up.

How To Help With Consistency

Remember for discipline, consistency is key. If you struggle with that, don’t worry you are not alone. Sometimes we are busy or we don’t have energy and we just let things slide. Or sometimes consistency is just something that is personally hard for us. To help with consistency, make sure you are setting yourself up for success as a parent by making realistic consequences for your child – simple and short.

Tip: Post your rules, with the consequence right underneath it, in a common area of your house where your child will see it on a daily basis (pictures work great for this). That way when your child breaks a rule you can simply reference the consequence on display.

How To Enforce Consequences

When you do need to enforce a consequence, make it as matter of fact as possible. Simply tell your child they broke a rule and reference the consequence. If your child throws a fit, stay as neutral as possible and reflect their feelings back to them. For example, ‘you are feeling really mad right now. Mad, mad, mad. You do not like what mom just said’. Keep your phrasing short and your words simple. Do this until your child calms down. Once you can tell your child is calmer, repeat the rule and the consequence, and offer to help them transition to the consequence. For example, ‘would you like me to walk with you to the time out area or do you want to do it on your own?’.

Sometimes children just need help with that transition to get them back on track. It is also important for your child to feel your love since their own emotions, as well as a parent’s reaction, can feel overwhelming and scary to them at times. So tell your child you still love them while enforcing the pre-set consequence.

Set Your Child Up For Success

How to avoid battles and tantrums

Disciplining children requires you to teach them how you want them to behave

Viewing discipline in the early childhood years as mostly a time for teaching your child what is the expected behavior will set you up for success and help you avoid battles with your child.

To be an effective teacher, go over to your child when you see that they have broken a rule. Get down on their level and and remind them of the rule. Shame can be an unintended consequence of discipline so to help avoid this remind your child what the family rule is and use ‘we’ when correcting their behavior.

The next step is pointing out what your child did that was wrong. This may seem pretty obvious, but remember children need to learn everything and as crazy as it may seem, they truly may not know they did something wrong. If someone tried to take something your child thought was theirs they are going to feel justified to push or hit the other child. A child needs to be taught what is right and wrong and how to act. As a parent, you act as your child’s moral compass in the world until they can learn the rules.

For a school age kid that may mean explaining why copying another person’s work is unacceptable, because they may believe getting the answers right is more important than how they get them right.

Finally, the most critical step in disciplining a child is showing or telling them what to do the next time. Again, it may seem completely obvious to you so a lot of parents simply say, ‘don’t push’ or ‘stop that’ and leave it at that. But that does not tell your child what you expect them to do the next time. If you want them to behave differently, you have to tell them exactly how you want them to act.

It may seem like you have to teach your child the same lessons over and over, but that is normal at this age. Children are like little scientists trying to make sense out of their world. It is their job to test their environment and see if their actions get the same reactions every time so they can make sense of their world. They also have very little impulse control at this stage. But remaining consistent with your approach and teaching your child your expectations for behavior will set you both up for success as they grow older.

Want To Speed Up Your Child’s Learning Process?

Role playing with your child when you are playing with them can really help them remember and practice what you want them to do. You can also remind them before they begin an activity as to what the expectations are. Letting your child know what is expected of them as well as how they should act and who they can turn to for help can help reduce discipline issues.

For school age children (age 5 – 8)

When your child is around 5 you can start working on them solving their own conflicts and building more social skills. When they get into a fight with another child and they come to you, instead of mediating the issue like you would with a 2 to 4 year old, you can ask your child the following questions to get them to start problem solving.

  • What happened?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • What do you think the problem is?
  • What do you think the other child is feeling right now – help explain how the other child might be feeling if your child does not know. This is called theory of mind – being able to figure out what another person may be thinking or feeling – and is an important social development step you can help foster*
  • What do you think can be done to fix this?

In the beginning, you may need to give your school age child some ideas of how to fix their problem, but let them decide what they are going to do. The more you follow this formula and they get used to this process the more they will be able to start solving the conflicts on their own.

Final thoughts

Whenever you are disciplining a child, it always helps to end the conversation with “I love you, you are going to make mistakes and that is okay. I’m here to help you get back on track and I know you will do better next time”.

By ending the conversation with love and confidence in your child, you are setting them up for success and giving them confidence in themselves.

Remember to grant yourself and your child lots of grace. It is hard being a parent in the early childhood years. It is important to remember that it is the first time you have ever parented this particular child in this particular stage, so it is okay to stumble and not know what to do and to make mistakes. Share those stumbles and mistakes with your child to remind you both that you are human and that you are both going through this learning process together.

*Note: The above tips are meant to help the majority of parents. Children who struggle with certain disorders, high sensitivity or trauma may need a different approach that is individualized to their needs and how they best respond. Children with neurological disorders, such as autism, struggle with developing theory of mind and benefit from more involved intervention to help develop this skill. While you can assist your child who has special needs in developing this skill, it will generally take longer to develop. If you would like to discuss personalized options to best support your child, we invite you to schedule a free 30 minute consultation with us so we can tailor tips that would work best for your family.

A note to our BIPOC community members

As a certified parent coach we recognize the struggles and adversities our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities face. We also understand that due to systemic racism and racial bias, BIPOC children do not have the safety and advantage of behaving in the same manner as white children and therefore their culture of discipline is different than white culture.

We recognize the use of punishment as a parenting tool is prevalent in BIPOC communities because BIPOC parents and caregivers must protect their children from an unforgiving and biased white culture because the consequences of failed discipline outside of the BIPOC community can have serious consequences, especially as a child grows.

We do not condemn or judge any parent for parenting the best they can with the tools they have and we always acknowledge the effects culture and an environment of adverse challenges and systemic racism has on both parents and children.

We seek to help all BIPOC parents and caregivers who need parenting support in a culturally informed way to meet the needs of each individual family.

Please schedule a free consultation to see how we can support you.

Creating Family Values

Creating Family Values

Creating Family Values

Creating family values can help create boundaries for parents to know what to discipline on and what to let go.

It also helps children understand what the expected behavior is and creates greater compliance when it comes to discipline.

Check out this short video on how to create family values and how they can help make parenting and discipline easier.