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Children and discipline┆Child Health

Life is, in many ways, much harder for your school age child than when he was a toddler.

Many adults no longer see children of this age as 'cute' and expectations to behave well are very powerful, both from you and teachers. There can also be criticism from friends, teachers and you when your child gets things wrong.

Misbehaviour in school age children may also have a more complicated basis.

A seven year old may constantly break things because her co-ordination is still not perfect, but she may do it to attract your attention to the fact she's finding it tough to live up to all the complicated new rules in her life.

Too many orders such as: "Do this" and "Don't do that", and being quick to criticise: "How could you?" and "Don't be so stupid", can be very hard to take for a child. 

Main discipline problems

 Fighting with siblings -
Fighting with friends -
Answering back to you or teachers -
Bullying -
   Lying -
 Stealing -
Refusing to obey when asked to do something -
Refusing to carry out chores -
  Lack of manners -
Showing off and being silly (at the younger end, giggling about bodily functions, loudly passing wind or talking about bottoms).
    It's in these years that positive discipline is essential for behaviour management.

    This involves:
    • Giving most attention to the good behaviour you want to encourage
    • Ignoring minor 'naughty' behaviour as much as possible
    • Only using punishment for really serious misbehaviour

    Tips for positive discipline

    Accept your child is bound to want to assert her independence - answering back or not doing as she's told can often be a way of demonstrating this. She'll have a natural desire to show she's got a mind of her own.

    Talk about independence issues, using explanations and reasoning - practise good communication and reflective listening. Communication is vital in the school age years as there's so much to discuss and negotiate when children are seeking new freedom. It's always a balance between independence and safety.

    Reassure your child - she may sometimes act as if she doesn't need you and is very independent, but she still needs a lot of love and reassurance. 

    Regular routines are still important - set mealtimes and times for homework. Rules are still needed which are consistent and firm - it's important to keep reviewing rules throughout middle childhood, and changing them as your child becomes more competent.

    Try not to give too many orders - describe what you want your child to do. Too many orders may overwhelm your child.

    Give reasons for why things have to be a certain way.
    Make time to talk and listen carefully to your child about what's going on at school or with friends - keep an eye out for any worries that may make behaviour worse. 

    Try to use specific praise, describing exactly what it's being given for - "I like the way you cleared away all your books without being asked", not just "You're a good girl for tidying." 

    Let minor misbehaviour go - stay calm and avoid arguments as much as possible. Keep criticisms to a minimum - only criticise the behaviour, not your child. "That was a thoughtless thing to do" rather than "You're always so thoughtless."

    A 'stuck record' approach can sometimes work well - calmly repeat what you expect your child to do. This avoids pointless arguments.

    Consequences - if disappointment, mild disapproval or ignoring doesn't work to change behaviour, relying on these can be useful, for example: if she doesn't hang up her coat, she probably won't be able to find it next time she's going out.

    Distraction - when siblings argue you could say: "Why don't you both play that video game you like." If your child is in a bad mood, try something like: "Would you like to go swimming? We haven't been for a while".

    Tackling stealing

    You need to explain how hard it is to earn money and possessions, why it's important to have enough and why we can't just take it from others.

    Children need to learn about the moral aspects of this behaviour. You need to teach your child that life would be impossible if we all just grabbed each other's things.

    It's much better to explain why it's inappropriate to take money or possessions from others than it is to impose strict rules. For example, saying: "You'll be in big trouble if you ever touch my purse" uses fear of punishment to control the behaviour.

    Seven and eight year olds and above should have an understanding of why stealing is wrong. But if your child does steal nonetheless, you should insist he returns the items he's taken and makes an apology. You should talk to your child about why this behaviour isn't acceptable and you may wish to punish him - for example, less time on the computer, not having friends to stay, early bedtime.

    Handling lying

    It's only from about seven to eight years of age that children can fully understand the difference between truth and lies - before that they're not 'lying' in the adult sense, as they may genuinely believe they saw a fairy in the garden!
    The development of conscience means your child will feel bad when he tells a lie - even though he may still do it.

    It can sometimes be easier for him to go back to the type of fantasies that worked well when he was younger - particularly to avoid unpleasant experiences. If the truth is too painful, he may use fantasy to make it go away.

    Your child needs to understand that you'll still love him even when he does something wrong. He needs to learn that honesty is the best policy.


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