Behaviour and Discipline


Why is Discipline So Important?


One of the most important roles a parent has, and perhaps one of the most difficult is, disciplining a child.  Effective discipline becomes part of a comforting family environment and provides a foundation for self-discipline throughout a child’s life.  Effective and positive discipline guides and teaches children what behaviours are appropriate.  It’s not about forcing children to obey. 


Respect, consistency and fairness are basic principles that the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends to help guide parents when disciplining their children.  The Canadian Pediatric Society also suggests that children be disciplined according to their age, stage of development, personality and many other factors.


Discipline for the Preschool Age Child

Unlike toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarten-age-children are able to accept reality and limitations.  That doesn’t mean they’re great at following rules, but they are willing to acknowledge rules.  Preschoolers can be gullible and their judgement is not always accurate.  They need good behavioural role models and tend to respond positively to approval and praise.


A child this age still requires supervision when following directions, even though they are able to rely on verbal rules.  If you need to discipline your preschooler, time-out, redirection (focussing child’s attention on something other than the problem) and/or small consequences that are related to and used immediately following the misbehaviour may be appropriate.


“The Canadian Pediatric Society strongly discourages the use of physical punishment on children, including spanking”

(January 2004)


For more information on the risks of physical discipline, visit Effective Discipline for Children


Discipline for the School-Age Child


The school-age child (6 – 12 years) becomes increasingly independent which can lead to more battles and conflicts.  School-age children tend to choose their own activities and friends, act autonomously, and do what they want rather than what they should do. 


Parents need to allow their child to become independent, but also continue to supervise, set consistent rules and be good role-models. Again, one of the most powerful motivators for good behaviour in children are approval and praise!  


Effective methods for disciplining a school-age child include consequences, time-outs, and/or withdrawing or delaying of privileges.  Try to avoid long-winded lectures with a child this age.  They will just tune you out!


When a child misbehaves:

STOP……….Ask yourself, “What is happening and Why is it happening?”


LOOK………Ask yourself, “What can I do about it?”


LISTEN…….Ask yourself, “How can I prevent it from happening again?”


Disciplinary Options

A caregiver can use these methods of discipline if a child does not correct the misbehaviour on his/her own.


Logical Consequence

A child who is responsible for putting her bike away leaves it outside overnight and the bike is stolen.  The child then has to go without a bike for a period of time.  Make sure consequences are realistic, consistent and related to the misbehaviour.


Time Out

Your child loses control and needs some time to stop, calm down, and change the situation.  Time-out sends your child away from the situation and into an isolated area such as a chair, quiet corner or hallway.  The general rule is 1 minute/age not lasting more than 5 minutes total. For more information on time-outs click on this link:


Offer a Choice

“You can either go to Sarah’s after you clean your room or you can stay at home.”  This option works well with children who are beginning to establish their independence and do not want to be told what to do.  Even if there isn’t much of a choice, you can still offer one.



Address your child’s feelings, state your feelings and what your expectations are.  Together, write down possible solutions.  Choose a solution and try it! Remember, be patient and treat your child’s opinions with respect.


Click here for more information on Positive Discipline Tips for Every Age.




Douglas, A. (2003).  The Mother of all Parenting Books. Wiley & Sons, Canada, p. 120 – 123.



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