Dear Desperate Mom,
I wish I could say there was one fail safe method of discipline that works, but I can't. You have mentioned the most important key to discipline and that is consistency; yes it is very difficult and yes children will always try to find a way out no matter what method you use, but consistency is the key. The more you give in, the more your child and the rest of the family learns that you don;t really mean what you say. With discipline it is essential to make your expectations known; to tell a child 'to behave' is too broad, they need more direction. Start by writing down all the behaviours you would like to see, try to avoid 'don't' and 'never' statements; it is easier to act than to remember not to act. Once you know what you do want to see, explain it to your child and family (you should all be on the same page) or write a list of 'The Family's Behaviours' and stick it on the fridge. At the same time, explain a reward for each behaviour. And then stick to it. Rewards can be a sticker, a pony ride, his favourite story, game time with just mom etc. By focusing on the positive behaviours and praising your son for them and ignoring the annoying behaviours the negative ones will start to diminish. As your son is very young he may need reminding before every activity of what is expected of him (explained simply but clearly) and his reward when he complies. If there is no good behaviour there is no reward. He is likely to be an angel in the beginning, and then a little terror as he tries to see where the boundary is; push through this part and it will be better. Be firm, and be consistent.
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