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Discipline is one of the ways you teach your child to handle challenging situations and feelings so that he grows into a confident adult capable of treating himself and others with respect. Not what you were thinking? You aren't alone. Many parents believe discipline means punishing your child for bad behaviour, but discipline actually means training and guiding, and can be positive. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that parents do not use any physical punishment, including spanking, to correct a child's behaviour. Instead, setting clear limits and expectations that your child can understand is the first step. Providing consistent routines and unconditional love – even when he does something wrong – is key.

Talking to your child about the rules is important. Make sure you tell your child why you have certain rules. Early years children may understand that it's dangerous to cross the street without looking for cars first, but they may not understand why it is important to listen while others are talking or to forgive playmates for cheating. Explaining rules is a great way to teach your child how to respect others and themselves. When talking about rules do your best to say them in a positive way – this may make you feel like less of a nag and your rules seem friendlier.

It is always better to praise your child when she has done something well than to yell at her or criticize her when she has done something wrong. Children generally want to please their parents so if she does something right and you praise her, she will feel good about the attention and will continue to follow the rules to get that positive response from you. Remember that how you talk to and act with your child will also influence her actions. If you can remember to say please and thank you to your child, she is more likely to say please and thank you when speaking to you. It's important to remember that our children learn from watching us and if we misbehave they might misbehave too!

Often parents don't like disciplining their children, but it is very important for parents to do their best to be as consistent as possible. Reasonable rules and limits help children to understand the world and keep them safe in a way that allows them to explore and learn. Early years children are learning to manage their feelings by talking about them and using some of the coping methods they have learned. However, learning to manage feelings is an on-going process during childhood. Encouraging your child to name his feelings will teach him to use his words in difficult situations. It's also a good idea to problem solve together and suggest ways he may be able to cope with his feelings before they become overwhelming. This might be through sports, talking, reading or writing.

Often the first step in discipline is to firmly explain to your child that the behaviour is wrong and then ask him to stop the behaviour. It is also a good idea to explain to your child how his behaviour may affect others. For example, if your son walks away from his friend because he is not able to agree on a game to play, you could talk to your son about his feelings, his friend's feelings and why it's important to get along with others.

If he's feeling angry let him know it is okay and normal to feel angry when things don't go your way. Practice problem solving with him; ask him what a good solution may be and ask him if he can talk to his friend to work it out together. Encouraging your child to talk it out and work towards a compromise will foster social skills and improve his problem-solving abilities. When possible, have your child try to work it out with his friend on his own – he will need to learn how to manage conflict without your help.

If your daughter refuses to share a toy with her sister, you could explain to her why it is important to share, even when we don't want to, and show her how she can share and still enjoy playing. Praise your daughter for her efforts to play nicely and share. If your daughter still refuses to share, you could choose to remove a privilege but remember that the consequence and loss of privilege should be as logical as possible and one that is easily enforced. For example, you might decide that she is not allowed to play with that particular toy for the day. Telling her she will never get to play with her sister again if she doesn't share is not something that you are likely to stick to – so if you decide to remove a privilege, make it something you can live with as well.

Many parents choose to have their child help decide what the consequence of misbehaving will be and how he can correct the bad behaviour or work to ensure it doesn't happen again. Having your child involved in making these decisions will give him a chance to practice problem solving and also teach him the importance of taking responsibility.

If you'd like to learn more about positive discipline and behaviour management techniques, click on the link to Manitoba's Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), a website that has lots of good information for parents. You can also call the Triple P help line to ask questions, or join the Triple P program in your neighbourhood, at 204-945-4777 in Winnipeg or toll free 1-877-945-4777.

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