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Discipline is something that is misunderstood. It often has a bad connotation, but discipline, according to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, is teaching, instruction, or tutoring. Discipline is not the same as punishment, but the two often go hand in hand. Children from the ages of four to ten need an adult who is able to discipline them.

Children Ages 4-8

By the age of four a child knows the difference between right and wrong. Children will have already begun to test their limits by this age. The parent must provide boundaries.

Let your child know from the onset what behavior is acceptable and what is not. Let your child know what attitudes are acceptable and what are not. Then firmly enforce these boundaries. Above all, do not dismiss direct defiance for which a child must be punished. Punishment is a part of discipline as is reward. Many parents do not want to hurt their children by being “strict,” but children at this age need strong leadership. If you as a parent do not provide it, a child will seek role-models elsewhere.

When it becomes necessary to punish a child, do not make threats you do not intend to or cannot enforce. Your child will remember and will begin to ignore you if you do not enforce the rules. Kids have many privileges which they view as rights. Take privileges away from your child, and he or she will take you seriously. Do not make your child go to bed without dinner, but feel free to eliminate dessert.

Spanking is one of the biggest debates with parents today. A good guideline is that spanking should be used as a last resort punishment when a child is consistently defying the parent. Children older than eight should probably not be spanked.

If you want to effectively discipline your children, they must trust and respect you. By following through with your statements you will earn their respect, but you need to show your children that you love them by spending time with them. Quality time is great, but quantity is important, too. Children are not fooled by material gifts which, outside of special occasions, are nothing more than bribes or apologies.

Some children take longer to discipline than others. You must help your children mold their wills. Do not break their spirits. Teach your children to think about their actions. Model appropriate behavior for them. If you make a mistake, then apologize. Show them that good behavior has benefits. Reward their good behavior or achievements from time to time. Everyone likes to be recognized. Do not reward every good thing they do, or they will expect to be rewarded for behaving properly.

Children 9-10

These are some of the most important years in a child’s life. Pre-pubescent children need a lot of love and guidance. Children are maturing much more quickly today than in years past. You need to be able to communicate effectively with your child. Let your child know that you are still in charge, but allow him or her to have new privileges as he or she gains your trust. Make your home a safe-haven from the outside world.

Many children are involved in too many activities. Family should be priority number one. When children become over-stimulated, they lose focus of what is important. The world begins to revolve around them, and parents become a nuisance. Allow children to choose one or two activities in which they can become involved. This will allow them to develop skills fully, and it will also allow them time to be at home. Make sure your children have a quiet time during the day when they can read or reflect.

Allow time for your child to talk to you. This may take awhile since parents are not as “cool” at this age as they used to be, but it is necessary to maintaining a good relationship. Be forthright about sex, and explain how it can be very dangerous outside of marriage not only physically but emotionally as well. Be honest with your child if he or she asks questions, but do not tell him or her more than is necessary. Explain what difficulties can arise from bad choices. Most importantly, be there for your child to talk to or to comfort him or her.

Discipline is teaching your child how to learn and growing with him or her. Parents are the most important people in children’s lives. They are a reflection of their parents. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6