Posted: Feb 11, 2013 11:00 AM
Loving your children doesn’t mean being their BFF. Children need guidance, structure and boundaries in order to feel loved – and thrive. Some parents are wary of being too hard on their kids, but discipline shows them you care.

Parenting takes time, patience and consistency — when you aren't pulling your hair out, that is. Many modern-day parents approach parenting with a more laid-back vibe than their parents did. While there is value in empowering your kids, don't go too far. Kids also need rules and boundaries in order to feel loved.

Discipline is really just the process of teaching your children right from wrong — what behavior is acceptable and what's not.

Discipline is a process

Just the word discipline brings with it images of yelling parents, crying kids and maybe a time-out in the corner. Discipline is really just the process of teaching your children right from wrong — what behavior is acceptable and what's not. The trick is to balance your expectations of behavior with consistent reinforcement for both good and bad choices. Sounds easy, right? Many parents find it difficult to be consistent — especially as their kids get older and it feels easier to be more lenient.

Make discipline work for you

Want to make discipline work for both you and your kids? Being prepared ahead of time helps you respond more appropriately. Here are a few tips to help you stick to your guns when the going gets tough.

  • Watch what you say: A big part of consistency is being true to your word — and kids will remember. Don't threaten to leave the store if you won't follow through. Keep your rules the same day after day, so your kids know what to expect. By being consistent you are actually teaching them they can count on you.
  • Stay firm: Don't fuel bad behavior by giving in to demands. Your child will learn quickly that a tantrum gets him exactly what he wants, and this is hard to break. It's OK to acknowledge his feelings by saying, "I understand that you are angry," but stay firm. Believe it or not, they need to know you're in charge because it makes them feel more secure.
  • Know your kid: At different ages and stages, your kids will be capable of different levels of understanding. Sometimes what you perceive as bad behavior may be the result of expecting too much of her for her age and developmental stage. What worked for your first child may completely backfire with your second.

Own up once in a while

You will never be a perfect parent, so own up to your mistakes. If your reaction to a situation doesn't go so well, try something different next time. There will be plenty of opportunities to succeed — and the game is always changing. Show your kids some discipline, rules and structure and pat yourself on the back — you're parenting.

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