Cooperative Extension Educator, Child Development
University of Connecticut
If you have a choice of discipline skills, you will work with
children better. You and the children will be less frustrated.
Most people who care for young children say that discipline is
their big concern. They wonder "Am I being too easy?"
or "Am I being too harsh?" Effective discipline teaches
children behavior that is right for that time and place. As a
day care provider, you want to help children develop self-control.
With self-control, children will know how to behave even when
no one is watching them.
Children learn best from what actually happens, not from what is said to them. Teaching children good behaviors is more than telling them what to
do. Children will test limits. They will whine and argue to find out how you react. If these negative behaviors are rewarded (the children get what
they want), they will use the negative behaviors again.
Children learn by copying what they see others do. If you model good behaviors, children will copy them. Rewards also help children learn good
behaviors. If you are pleased with a child's behavior, let him or her know. Praise the child, and tell him or her exactly what you are pleased about.
Also, you can use other rewards, such as smiling and nodding, to let a child know you are pleased. Be sure to pay attention to children who are
behaving well. Do not let children who are misbehaving take all your time. Avoid giving things (especially food) to reward good behavior.
Never shame or belittle a child for misbehaving. The child's self esteem will be damaged, and most likely the child will not improve his or her
Have the child rest or play alone for a few minutes. Being
alone helps children calm down. Then you can use other methods
to encourage better
Talk calmly with the child. Ask the child what happened and
why. Then talk about ways to work out the problem. Try to find
an answer that you both like. This helps the child learn to be
responsible for his or her behavior.
When children start doing something you do not like, stop them.
Then explain why you are stopping them. Suggest something else
they can do. If they want to scribble on the wall, give them paper
to scribble on instead.
When a child misbehaves or hurts another child, expect him
or her to help fix the problem. If a child spills a cup of milk,
give him or her a cloth
to clean it up. If one child makes another child cry, have the first child help soothe the other child.
Some misbehavior is done to get your attention. The best way
to deal with this is to ignore it. Pay attention to good behavior.
Children need attention for good behavior, not for misbehavior.
Be clear and firm when you tell the child what he or she needs
to do. Your tone of voice can show that you mean what you say.
Try to work out problems patiently as they come up. Act before
you getangry and frustrated.
1. For one day, count the number of times you say things like
"Don't slam the door" instead of "Please close
the door gently." Then, for a few days try to say "please"
more often. Try to say "don't" less often. How do you
feel when you talk to the children this way? How do the children
2. Praise children for good behavior. This may help them to repeat the good behavior.
3. Try looking at yourself in a mirror when you are disciplining. Does your face or your tone of voice scare the children? Remember, discipline should teach children acceptable behavior.
*Discipline For Young Children* series by Elaine Wilson, Cooperative
Extension, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078.
*School-Age Child Care: Guidance and Discipline*, videotape available from all Connecticut Cooperative Extension offices. Cooperative Extension is listed under county or state government in your telephone directory.
Your local library is a wonderful source of books and information for you and for the children. Visit the children's librarian.