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10 Steps To Guide Children Without Punishment

Parents are often surprised to hear that most of what we think of as discipline -- spankings, consequences, even timeouts -- doesn't help kids become responsible, self-disciplined people. After all, parents punish so kids will learn to behave, right?

But children learn what they live. The most effective way to teach kids is our modeling, and to treat them the way we want them to treat others: with compassion and understanding. When we spank, punish, or yell, kids learn to act aggressively.

Even timeouts – symbolic abandonment -- give children the message that they’re alone with their big scary feelings just when they need us most. Instead, I'm a big fan of Time-Ins, during which we create safety and connect warmly, to help the child process the feelings that were causing him to act out.

That doesn’t mean we renege on our responsibility to guide our children by setting limits. No running into the street, no hitting the baby, no peeing on the carpet, no picking the neighbor’s tulips, no hurting the dog. But we don't need to punish to set or hold such limits.

Are you wondering how your child will learn not to do these things next time, if you don’t “discipline” him when he does them? Then you’re assuming that we need to punish children to "teach a lesson."

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