Learn how to discipline children with these easy tips from Parents Magazine! The key to disciplining children is to be consistent, follow through once you’ve set up rules, show respect, and remain calm. Here are our four parenting tips on how to discipline children. Tip one is to teach natural consequences. Choose a punishment that fits your child’s bad behavior. Tip two is to ignore certain attention-seeking behaviors. If your child doesn’t get a rise out of you, she will probably stop doing it. Tip three is to give choices to your child so they’re more willing to cooperate. Tip four is to use time-outs. Your child’s behavior won’t change immediately, but be patient and utilize these discipline techniques for effective parenting!
As parents, we love our kids so much we want to protect them, help them, and cultivate them into perfect, happy humans. Unfortunately, this overparenting has the opposite effect, leaving our kids unready for the world and life as adults.
“We parents, we’re doing too much,” says Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” “We have the very best of intentions, but when we over-help, we deprive them of the chance to learn these really important things that it turns out they need to learn to be prepared to be out in the world of work, to get an apartment, to make their way through an unfamiliar town, to interact with adults who aren’t motivated by love.”
Now the mom of two high schoolers, Lythcott-Haims’ a-ha moment came in 2009 after telling parents at Stanford’s freshman orientation to let their kids go and then coming home for dinner and cutting her then 10-year-old son’s meat.
“That’s when I got the connection,” she says. “When do you stop cutting their meat? When do you stop looking both ways for them as they cross the street? These are all things that we’re doing to be helpful, protective and so on, but if you’ve sheltered your 18-year-old all the way up to 18 by doing all of those things, then they end up bewildered out in the world. I realized this was why the Stanford freshman I was working with, however accomplished in the G.P.A. and childhood resume sense, were reliant upon mom or dad to kind of do the ‘work’ of life.”
Are you ready to stop helicopter parenting and prepare your kid for life as a young adult? Lythcott-Haims shares 12 basic life skills every kid should know by high school:
1. Make a meal
“By the time your kid is in high school, they really ought to be able to do everything related to their own care, if they had to,” Lythcott-Haims says. “I’m not saying stop making dinner for your kids, but I am saying you ought to have confidence that they could make a breakfast for themselves, that they could make a lunch.”
While most days you are going to be preparing their meals, you want them to be able to feed themselves if necessary. “When something happens, grandma gets sick and one parent’s got to rush across town to look after her and the other parent’s off at work, you want to know your freshman in high school has what it takes to pack their own lunch, make his own dinner, you know? The more they age, the more they should feel that, ‘Yeah, I’ve got this.’ There’s a competence, and there’s a confidence that comes when we build competence.”
2. Wake themselves up on time
“By the time your kid is entering high school, you ought to have confidence they can wake themselves up and get themselves washed and dressed in clothing that’s clean,” Lythcott-Haims says. “I underscore this because too many of us are letting kids off. We’re their alarm clock and then what happens? They’re late for breakfast; they’re late to school; and we drive them. All that teaches them is, ‘I’ll always be there to wake you up and drive you,’ which is not true.”
Lythcott-Haims recently heard from a colleague at a major university that a parent had installed a webcam in the dorm room of a freshman to wake the kid up. “That’s a parenting fail,” she says. “We’ve gotten ourselves worked up into a frothy frenzy about grades and scores in high school, and further into college, and we sort of treat our kids’ childhood as if every day, every quiz, every afternoon is a make or break moment for their future,” she continues. “We feel the stakes are high, and therefore we must help, but the stakes are low in childhood compared to what they will be in college, and what they’ll really be in the world beyond.”
3. Do laundry
When teaching teens basic chores like laundry, we have to be careful not to be snippy and make them feel bad about not knowing how to do it yet. “If they haven’t learned, it’s because we haven’t taught them,” she says, “so parents need to acknowledge [to their kids] that they’ve been over-helping.” Instead, show them the ropes, watch them do it themselves once to make sure they’ve got it, and then let them handle it on their own.
4. Pump gas
“When they learn to drive, they better know how to pump gas, okay?” Lythcott-Haims says. “I know of college students who have always had their parents fill their tank, whether at home in high school or even in college. The parents just top off the tank whenever they come visit her. Well, one day a 20-year-old student is out driving around, and her tank is near empty. And she says, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to get gas. I’ve never done that. But I’m smart, I can figure it out.'” Long story short: She accidentally puts diesel in the car because no one ever taught her what to do. That’s an expensive and unnecessary lesson.
5. Pitch in
“Employers these days are saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, what is it with these 20-somethings, they just want to be told exactly what to do, kind of step-by-step, and they want to be applauded for doing it,'” Lythcott-Haims says. “If we’ve just served them, if parents have just said their academics and activities are all that matter and we’ll take care of everything else, no chores and no helping out around the house, then they get out into the workplace and they don’t have that pitch-in mindset.”
“Kids need to learn how to contribute for the betterment of the whole,” she says. “Maybe they have siblings and one is stressed out about something, and the other says, ‘I’ll do your chore for you. Because I see you’re stressed out and you need some help.’ That’s building a sense of it’s not just about me. I can do for others.”
6. Advocate for themselves
Most of us have heard the stories of the parents who are calling college professors to complain about their kids’ grades, right? News flash: This needs to stop in high school, too. “If you’re the one throughout high school who’s always got to be emailing the teacher, you basically are teaching your kid, ‘You’re not competent, and I’m going to have to do it for you,’ which is terribly harming,” Lythcott-Haims says.
Instead, teach your child how to have a conversation with an authority figure and advocate for themselves. “So I’d say, ‘Look honey, I know you’re frustrated about this grade or you’re upset about that happening on the soccer team, or you don’t understand this information. You need to be the one to go talk to your teacher respectfully and advocate for yourself.'” she says. “And if they look at you in horror, say, ‘You can do it; I know you can do it. Do you want to practice with me?’ The only way to teach them is to get out of their way and make them do it.”
Also, prepare them to listen well to what the other person is saying and understand it might not go their way. “Many times they won’t get the outcome they desire, and it’s ‘Well, ‘I tried.’ And they come home and they learn to cope with it, because not everything in life will go your way.”
“We’re always putting their stuff in their backpacks,” Lythcott-Haims says. “‘Oh, don’t want you to forget your homework!’ And then that backpack becomes a bag or a briefcase one day in the workplace, and they haven’t learned that skill of being responsible for remembering their own stuff, doing that inventory every morning, ‘What do I need? Wallet, keys, lunch, work, laptop.'”
8. Order at restaurants
While this skill should be taught sooner than high school, if that’s where parents find themselves, it’s not too late. If they’ve never ordered for themselves, say, “Hey, guys, it’s time you started ordering for yourselves. I realize it’s not for me to decide what you’re going to eat, or me to assume you’re going to have your usual order, or for me to order for the whole family,'” she says.
Remind them to look the server in the eye, be polite, communicate their request, and say, “thank you.” “One day before long, they’re going to be out with friends or out with a girlfriend or boyfriend, and they’re going to want to have that skill to not only order food, but to do so respectfully—and not look like a jerk who’s an entitled kid with a credit card, who can pay for it, but can’t really treat the server respectfully,” Lythcott-Haims says.
9. Talk to strangers
“Their life will be full of strangers, if we think about it, but we have this blanket rule, ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’ which isn’t the right rule,” Lythcott-Haims says. “The right rule would be, ‘Let me teach you how to discern the very few, creepy strangers from the vast, vast majority of normal strangers.’ That’s a skill.”
Then, send your children out in the world to talk to strangers—safe ones. Lythcott-Haims taught her own kids this skill by sending them to a store within walking distance of their suburban home to run a small errand and ask the sales clerk for help. She handed them a $20 bill and off they went. “They come back with a spring in their step,” she says.
10. Go grocery shopping
Has your child ever even noticed that the grocery store aisles are nicely labeled with signs hanging from the ceiling? They should know how to navigate a supermarket on their own, Lythcott-Haims says. “Send them off on their own with one of those little hand-held baskets to go get five or six things,” she says. “If you’ve got a 13-year-old, and you’ve never let him or her out of your sight in a grocery store, you’re going to be freaking out; but 13-year-olds don’t get abducted from grocery stores.”
11. Plan an outing
“Whenever the peer group is old enough and ready to plan an outing, let them do it,” Lythcott-Haims says. “I’m the parent who’s very comfortable with my 12-year-old girl going to a matinee movie with friends where she arranged it—you know, one parent’s going to do the drop-off, one’s doing the pickup, but the girls are getting the tickets, bringing money for snacks.”
While you should ask them to walk you through the plan so you know they are not setting off willy-nilly, don’t let your fears for them make them fearful of the world. “Making their way out into the world’ to go to the movie, or to go to a mall, or to go walk up and down the big street in town and then get some food somewhere, whatever it is—they want that,” Lythcott-Haims says. “This is them trying to spread their wings.”
12. Take public transportation
When I travel around the country, people say, ‘Oh, my gosh. I wouldn’t let my 17-year-old daughter ride the metro alone,'” Lythcott-Haims says. “And I’m like, ‘What’s your long-term plan here? Would you let your 25-year-old daughter? Is it even up to you when she’s 25?'”
“Of course, [17 is] old enough! People join the Marines and the Army and the Air Force and the Navy at 18,” Lythcott-Haims points out. “This is just a lovely example of how far we’ve strayed, because no one is yet saying at 18 they’re too young to sign up to go fight for our country. So, we’re fine when [kids choose the military], but the kids who choose a four-year college? Oh, no, no. They need their mom or dad there all the time. It’s a reminder of how absurd it is.”
With the rise in the number ADHD diagnoses, fierce controversies have emerged over the mental disorder—how we should classify it, how best to treat it, and even whether it exists at all. We have only recently (within the past century) developed our understanding of how it affects those diagnosed, with the number of papers on “attention deficit” exploding within the past decade. But with the sheer amount of information on ADHD that’s out there, it’s easy for anyone these days to be completely overwhelmed. What do we believe? Who should we believe? Psychologist Stephen P. Hinshaw and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Ellison, authors of ADHD: What Everyone Needs to Know, answered a few questions for us in hopes of debunking some myths about the disorder.
Isn’t ADHD just an excuse for bad parenting, lazy, bratty kids, and pill-poppers?
This is a prevalent myth—and one we spend a lot of time debunking in our book, in interviews, and in our public talks. Despite the skepticism and the stereotypes, substantial research has shown that ADHD is a strongly hereditary neurodevelopmental disorder. The quality of one’s parenting doesn’t create ADHD—although it can influence a child’s development—and children with this condition are not lazy but instead handicapped in their capacity to focus attention and keep still.
It’s not? Well, isn’t it just a plot by pharmaceutical firms that want to sell more stimulants?
Pharmaceutical firms have worked hard to expand awareness of ADHD as they pursue profits in a global market last estimated at $11.5 billion. But they didn’t create the disorder. Moreover, studies have shown that stimulant medications—the most common treatment for ADHD—can be quite helpful for many people with the disorder and are generally safe, when used as prescribed. Our position on medication boils down to this: there is no “magic bullet,” and medication should be used with caution, due to potential side-effects and valid concerns about dependency. But you shouldn’t let Big Pharma’s sometimes remarkably aggressive tactics dissuade you from trying medication, if a doctor says you need it.
But aren’t we all getting a little ADHD because of how much we’re all checking Facebook and Twitter?
Everyone in modern society is facing a new world of devices, social media, and demands for rapidly shifting attention. It’s quite possible that the evolution of technology is moving faster than our brains’ capacity to adapt. Still, it’s important to make a distinction between distraction that can be controlled by turning off your email versus genuine ADHD, which arises from the brain’s inefficient processing of important neurochemicals including dopamine and norepinephrine. While most of us today are facing environmentally-caused problems with distraction, people with ADHD are at a significant disadvantage.
How fast have US rates of ADHD been increasing, and why?
The short answer is: really fast. US rates of ADHD were already high at the turn of the millennium, but since 2003, the numbers of diagnosed children and adolescents have risen by 41%. Today, more than six million youths have received diagnoses, and the fastest-growing segment of the total population with respect to diagnosis and medication treatment is now adults, particularly women.
The current numbers are staggering. For all children aged 4-17, the rate of diagnosis is now one in nine. For those over nine years of age, more than one boy in five has received a diagnosis. Among youth with a current diagnosis, nearly 70% receive medication.
Why are US rates so much higher than anywhere else?
Epidemiological studies show that ADHD is a global phenomenon, with rates of prevalence ranging from five to seven percent, even in such remote places as Brazil’s Amazon River basin. Indeed, diagnosis rates are much lower, for a range of reasons that include simple lack of awareness, cultural differences, and resistance to US-style “medicalization” of behavioral problems. Rates of diagnosis and treatment are now rising, in some cases dramatically, throughout the world, even as they still lag considerably behind US rates. One major factor in this trend is increasing pressures for performance in schools and on the job.
What might be causing some of the high rates in the United States?
One issue that seriously concerns us is the likelihood of over-diagnosis in some parts of the country. The danger of over-diagnosis is heightened by the fact that determining whether someone has ADHD remains a somewhat subjective process, in that, like all mental disorders, there is no blood test or brain scan that can decisively determine it.
“Gold-standard” clinical processes, which include taking thorough medical histories and gathering feedback from family members and teachers, can guard against over-diagnosis, but all too often the diagnosis is made in a cursory visit to a doctor.
What danger might there be of under-diagnosis?
The same quick-and-dirty evaluations that fuel over-diagnosis can also lead to missing ADHD when it truly exists. That is, the clinician who insists that he or she can detect ADHD in a brief clinical observation may overlook the fact that children and adults may act quite differently in a doctor’s office than they do at school or in the workplace. This is equally concerning, because whereas over-diagnosis may lead to over-treatment with medication, under-diagnosis means children who truly need help aren’t getting it.
I keep hearing that ADHD is a “gift.” What does that mean?
Celebrities including the rapper will.i.am and business superstars such as Jet Blue founder David Neeleman have talked about the advantages of having ADHD in terms of creativity and energy, and many ADHD advocates have championed the idea that the condition is a “gift.” We support the idea of ADHD as a kind of neuro-variability that in some contexts, and with the right support, can offer advantages. But do look this gift-horse in the mouth; ADHD can also be a serious liability, and needs to be managed throughout a lifetime. Consider the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who rose to stardom only to be embarrassed by drug and alcohol problems. Longitudinal studies show that people with ADHD on average suffer significantly more problems with addiction, accidents, divorces, and academic and employment setbacks than others. ADHD is serious business.
Is ADHD really more common in boys than girls?
Just like all other childhood neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., autism, Tourette’s, severe aggression), ADHD truly is more common in boys, at a rate of about two-and-a-half to one. But too many clinicians still don’t seem to understand that ADHD can and does exist in girls. One issue here is that girls—and women—often manifest the problem differently than boys and men. Whereas males may be more hyperactive, females may be more talkative or simply daydreamy. Although girls and women have historically been under-diagnosed, the rates are catching up in recent years, which is a good thing, given that the consequences of the disorder, when untreated, can be serious.
Can adults have ADHD?
Adult rates of ADHD are real and quickly growing. One reason is that as awareness has spread about childhood ADHD, many parents are starting to confront the reasons for their own lifelong and untreated distraction. There is debate about whether children ever “grow out of” their ADHD, or whether some merely learn how to cope so well that it is indistinguishable by adulthood. But the best estimates are that close to 10 million adults—about 4.4% of the population—are impaired to some extent by the disorder. That’s a prevalence rate of about half of the childhood rate.
The problem: “My child doesn’t listen.”
A student with ADHD might not seem to be listening or paying attention to class material. He may be daydreaming, looking out the window, or focused on irrelevant noises or other stimuli. As a result, he misses lessons, instructions, and directions.
The reason: ADHD is not just an inability to pay attention — it’s an inability to control attention. Children with ADHD have a lower level of brain arousal, which in turn decreases their ability to screen out distractions like noise in the hallway, movement outside, or even their own inner thoughts and feelings. Children with ADHD have an especially hard time tuning out distractions when an activity is not sufficiently stimulating.
The obstacles: Children with ADHD struggle to stay focused on lectures or any tasks that require sustained mental effort. Sometimes, this distractibility can appear intentional and annoying — which then works against students with ADHD in getting the help they need. Remarks such as “Earth to Amy!” or “Why don’t you ever listen?” will not correct this attention deficit. If children could pay better attention, they would.
Read on to discover classroom and home solutions to end distractibility.
Solutions in the Classroom
— Select seating wisely. Keeping kids with ADHD close to the teacher and away from doors or windows will help minimize potential distractions and provide the best stay-focused results.
— Allow all students to use distraction-blockers. In order to prevent singling out children with ADHD, let everyone try privacy dividers, earphones, or earplugs to block distractions during seat work or tests.
— Keep things interesting. Alternate between high- and low-interest activities and when possible, keep lesson periods short or vary the pacing from one lesson to the next.
— Accommodate different learning styles. Use a variety of strategies and teaching techniques to accommodate the multitude of learning styles in the room so all students have the opportunity to approach lessons the way they learn best.
— Include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic facets to all lessons. Also, give students opportunities to work cooperatively, individually, and with the group.
— Redirect rather than reprimand. Instead of scolding a student who becomes distracted, redirect him in a way that doesn’t cause embarrassment. Sometimes, asking the child a question you know he can answer, or giving nonverbal cues, such as standing close and patting him on the shoulder, can bring the child back into focus.
Solutions at Home
— Establish a daily homework routine. Some children need to take a break between school and homework or may need frequent breaks between assignments. Figure out what works best for your child in order to help her avoid distractions and procrastination.
— Help your kid with ADHD “set up” in a distraction-free environment. Sometimes the best learning environment can actually be the kitchen table with music playing in the background. Experiment until you find the ideal learning spot.
— Get her started. Sit down with your child and make sure he understands what is required for each assignment.
— Supervise as needed. Most children with ADHD need significant adult supervision to keep on task. As situations improve and the child matures, you can move away from constant supervision to frequent check-ins to make sure your child is on task.
— Allow short breaks between assignments. Have your child stretch or have a snack once one assignment is complete. This can help make his workload seem more manageable.
— Break down large assignments. Divide big assignments into “bites,” each one with a clear goal. If your child feels like a task is manageable, he’ll be less likely to become distracted.