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Dear Dr. Sylvia, I am concerned about my three-year-old nephew. My sister has been having ongoing problems with his behavior, which is very defiant and even violent at times. He will pick fights with other kids or do things on purpose to hurt them or make them cry. He will also hit my sister, or occasionally, other adults like myself. He also swears a lot, using strong words that even sound bad coming from an adult. My sister has tried time-outs, but he will not stay in place. He can be such a sweet, lovable boy, but then, all of a sudden, his mood switches and he becomes mean. Do you have any suggestions for my sister to help her help him express his anger in a more positive way, or for redirecting his negative behavior? I should say that he lives in a household with a father that is quite angry as well.

Published in Discipline/Behavior

Dear Dr. Sylvia, I believe our five-year-old daughter has the empowerment problem you spoke of in your article. (See Foundational Principles Parenting) Now that we've realized the problem, how do we fix it so she doesn't continue to act like a spoiled brat? We set what we believe are the appropriate limits. However, she pushes and pushes us to the point that we have to send her to her room or ground her from her favorite channel on TV. She honestly believes that she's THE BOSS. Any suggestions? A You will have to set clear limits for your five-year-old, but you'll want to be careful not to get on a negative track of constant punishment, or you'll soon find your daughter becoming sad or angry.

Published in Discipline/Behavior

Q Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I am a mother of three children, ages four-months, two- and three-years-old. Their father and I are having difficulty coming to an agreement on discipline for our two- and three year-old-daughters. I feel that you should remain calm, talk it out and if talking doesn't work then use time-outs, and if all else fails, they receive a spanking (w/o physical pain). Then I tell them "Mommy doesn't like to spank, but if you don't act like a good girl mommy has to help. I love you and need you to behave so we don't have to do this." I normally don't have to go past talking. Their father, on the other hand, tends to be less willing to talk it out.

Published in Discipline/Behavior

Children love to cooperate. They're great at playing, trusting, and learning. They want to feel close to their parents and loved ones. But every day, things happen that hurt children's feelings. They want more time for fun and intimacy, they get frustrated because there are things they can't do yet. There are many difficult moments for a child every day, no matter how hard we parents try to protect them. When children's feelings are hurt, they release those bad feelings immediately -- this is the healthiest response. Crying and tantrums, with plenty of trembling and perspiration, and eventually laughter are the natural way children heal from bad experiences.

Published in Discipline/Behavior

"If you don't give me that, I'm going to hit you!" my four-year-old said to her three-year-old brother. I was shocked! Why was threatening to hit her brother her first reaction? Why couldn't she at least try asking him nicely? When I thought about it, however, I realized that she was only imitating me and that threatening to smack was how I was keeping the kids in line lately. While I almost never actually gave my children a slap, I realized that lately I had been threatening to do so regularly. My parenting skills and the way that I was handling my anger, was affecting my children's approach to each other. If I didn't seem to have the tools to verbally resolve my conflicts, how would my children ever learn these tools? If I didn't seem to have the tools to verbally resolve my conflicts, how would my children ever learn these tools? It was then that I resolved to rely more on a different method of child discipline, one that had worked in the past with my oldest daughter: time-out.

Published in Discipline/Behavior

When I first heard about the institution of time out, as a very young mother, the concept confused me. "You mean," I asked whoever it was who had told me about it, "that my three-year-old child is supposed to sit in one place -- and not get up -- for over ten seconds?" Like many small children, my son was not inherently capable of sitting still, what with so much to climb and touch and jump on in this world of ours. I am not a fan of many of the more conventional models of kinder-government. Instead, I was searching for a discipline method that best suited my individual child, a very bright and philosophical person for someone who was less than three feet tall.

Published in Discipline/Behavior

Of all the parenting techniques and interventions touted by the "experts" in the past few years, few have met with such mixed reviews as the one known as time out. The reason for this is that the term is used in the literature to describe two very different interventions that are used very differently and designed to accomplish very different outcomes. The initial concept called time out was designed for use with toddlers and young children whose behavior was clearly unacceptable (yelling, hitting, etc). The idea was to tell the child that what he had done was unacceptable, and to have him sit in an area, alone.

Published in Discipline/Behavior

How many of us have children who are less well-behaved than we would like them to be? How many of us can set limits and keep them? How many of us find it easier to give in to the deafening screams of a two-year-old than to stick to our guns? Or to the teenager who wants to spend all her free time watching MTV or staying out till three a.m.? Countless observers of modern parenthood have said that today's parents are less strict, less firm, less sure of themselves as parents than their parents were. Some say it's due to the fact that parents today bend over backwards for their children because they feel guilty about not being able to give them the thing they most need: time.

Published in Discipline/Behavior

Recently, I asked my five-year-old to get me something from upstairs. "Yes, your majesty," was his reply. The day before that, it was "Certainly, Miss Mommy". Last week? "Sir, yes, sir" and "Whatever you say, Lady." I can't decide whether this lack of respect upsets me or not. On one hand, he is being what my mother would have called "fresh." On the other hand, the atmosphere in the house is convivial and open. He talks to me, and tells me everything - things I'd have been afraid to tell my parents. I figure: I can deal with the insolence if it buys me honesty. Don't get me wrong; I am not one of these parents who will do anything to be popular with my kids. That is not my goal.

Published in Discipline/Behavior

Dear Dr. Sylvia, I have a five-year-old daughter who just started kindergarten this year. Her behavior lately has been way out of line. She had a problem in preschool with respecting authority, and it has now carried over into kindergarten. We have had a problem with it at home as well. She talks back to adults, and she yells. When we tell her that she will have privileges taken away if she doesn't do what she's been asked to do, she says she wants her privileges taken away. Whenever she does something for her dad or me, or if I've asked her to do something for her baby sister (one year old,) she always asks what she will get in return. It seems to always take many times to get her to do something, and then it's a battle.

Published in Discipline/Behavior
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