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Disciplining Children: Age Appropriate Techniques

written by Laura Dabney, M.D. August 23, 2019
Disciplining Children: Age Appropriate Techniques

Age Appropriate Discipline Techniques

The most common parenting mistake I see comes from parents who fail to change their discipline tactics as their children get older. I am supplying you with a practical guide, a break down of how parenting must evolve as your children do.

Let’s first understand that discipline should always be in line with the child’s developmental stage, intelligence, and maturity level. Discipline is often hard, and unless it’s developmentally appropriate, it will also be ineffective.

Birth until Two

Primary developmental characteristic: No sense of object permanence (the ability to trust that a person or object will not disappear once they are out of sight).

Most effective discipline technique: Distraction.

Distraction is the most common form of discipline for very young children because they do not develop object permanence, until about the age of two. That’s why removing something from the child’s grasp or attention and replacing it with something more appropriate is the best form of correction during this phase.

Toddler, Preschool, and Early Elementary

Primary developmental characteristic: Vulnerable to stimulation overload.

Most effective discipline techniques: Firm but soothing redirection.

During this phase, parents must understand that very young children act out due to stimulation overload, and not because of willingness, spitefulness, or meanness. The emotional load that a preschooler feels about something, as small as losing a toy can be equivalent to an adult coming home to discover their beloved pet has died. If this happened to you, you might fall to your knees and cry. No one would scold you for your behavior because they’d know that you were experiencing an emotional flood. When toddlers and preschoolers do the same, parents need to see that as an emotional surge, rather than willful malice or naughtiness.

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