Document Sample

Human Development and Family Studies
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

Guidance and discipline are confusing words. They are often thought to mean
punishment, but they can mean much more than that.

For example, to guide means to lead or to show someone the way to reach a goal.
When guidance is done with love and respect, children develop an inner sense of self-
control. Guidance happens each time parents, teachers, caregivers, and others help
children think through problems, follow rules, or decide between "right" and "wrong."

To discipline means to train someone physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially.
Disciplining children, while guiding them with love and respect, helps them develop self-
esteem and responsibility. Parents, teachers, caregivers, and others train children when
they talk, teach, hold, and spend time with them.

There are many specific tools that caregivers can use to guide and discipline children.
Six of these tools are discussed in this book.

1. divert attention
2. set limits
3. offer choices
4. redirect
5. time outs
6. reinforce behavior

Guidance and discipline then, can be thought of as a group of tools used to help shape
children's behaviors and their personalities. Tools this powerful are often hard to use
because they take lots of practice.

Caregivers guide children through episodes of misbehavior each time they care for
them. They feel responsible for the children. They want the children to grow up feeling
safe and confident.

In order for this to happen, caregivers need to understand what guidance and discipline
are, and feel prepared to use positive guidance and discipline tools.


Guidance and discipline are the methods or tools that are used to help children learn
self-control and to feel good about themselves. In general, positive tools like choices
and time-outs help children develop self-control more easily.

Negative tools like spanking, hitting, yelling, or making fun of children tend to make
them timid and withdrawn or rebellious and mean. Rather than help improve children's
behaviors and gain their cooperation, negative tools lead children to feel bad about
themselves and to develop fewer feelings of self-control. They also lead children to
question parents' or caregivers' love and discount the times they really do want to talk,
hold, or spend time with them. Constant questioning and discounting of children leads to
discouragement, and a discouraged child is a child who is sure to misbehave.

When children have a sense of self-control within them, they know what to do and when
to do it, even when parents or caregivers aren't around. A sense of self-control helps
children feel safe and confident and enables them to think for themselves.


Children are constantly learning about themselves. When they find themselves in new
situations, they often experiment or test their limits. A natural curiosity prompts children
to ask themselves, "What will happen if I do this?"

The answer to their questions often comes in the form of discipline because their
curiosity results in misbehavior.

Curiosity is only one of the causes of misbehavior, though. There are many others. The
more caregivers understand about the causes of misbehavior and the discipline tools,
the more prepared they are to handle it. When misbehavior is dealt with on the spot in a
positive way, everyone involved in the situation wins.

Other reasons children misbehave include:

      illness
      boredom
      angry feelings
      a need for attention or love
      low self-esteem
      anxiety (caregivers who don't know about ages and stages of children's growth
       and development might expect a 5 year old to do something that would be hard
       for an 8 year old to do.)
      confusion (if caregivers aren't familiar with family and household rules, they may
       tell children to do something that is against what they normally are told by

There are many opinions on the "best" ways to guide and discipline children toward the
goal of inner self-control. What most experts agree on, though, is that there are no
"right" or "wrong" ways and that the "best" ways are the ones that work for you as a
caregiver. What works for you depends on your age, experience, attitudes, and values.

Your values are your beliefs. You learn values from parents, caregivers, teachers,
friends, television, books, brothers, sisters, relatives, and the world around you. Your
values help you know what to do and when to do it. They are part of your inner self-

Your beliefs and values influence how to guide and discipline the children for whom you
care. For example, each caregiver might handle the following situation differently based
on his or her beliefs and values.

Nicholas and Willy are 4 years old. Nicholas has ridden a rocking horse for several
minutes and has left it unattended just long enough to cross the room and pick up a doll.
As he returns to the rocking horse and begins to climb on, Willy decides she wants to
ride on it, too. She boosts herself up onto the horse the same time Nicholas does. Both
children scream, "My turn!" and begin to fight over the horse.

CAREGIVER #1: You believe children can learn to play together without fighting and
screaming. You talk to them about sharing and taking turns and remove the rocking
horse from the room for 10 minutes. In that 10 minutes you hold the children on your lap
and help them decide who will ride the horse when it is brought back into the room. If
the children can't decide, you say, "if you continue to fight over the horse, then no one
will ride it for the rest of today, and we'll try it again tomorrow."

Values: Sharing, decision-making, cooperation, friendship, peace, and quiet.

Tools: Talking, holding, teaching, time out.

CAREGIVER #2: You believe children can be patient and allow others to finish
something they have begun. In this case, Nicholas is not finished with the rockinghorse
and has left it only long enough to pick up a doll. His prompt return to the horse shows
that he wants to give the doll a ride. You step in and say "Willy, Nicholas is still playing
with the horse. You may have it when he's done. Let's find something else to do until
he's finished."

Values: Patience, respect for other's wishes and property.

Tools: Talking, spending time, re-directing.

CAREGIVER #3: You respond by saying, "Our rule is that only one child can ride the
horse at a time. Nicholas, you've had a turn on the horse, now it's Willy's turn. You need
to find something else to play with for a while." When Nicholas objects, you say, "It's
only fair that both of you have a chance to ride the rocking horse."

Values: Taking turns, equal opportunities to play with toys, fairness.
Tools: Talking, teaching, setting limits.

CAREGIVER #4: You believe that children can solve their own problems. You might
take them both on your lap, explain to them why two people cannot ride the horse at the
same time, and say, "You can't ride the rocking horse together, and if you fight over it,
I'll have to take it out of the room, and then neither of you will be able to ride it. This
seems like a problem to me. Would you like to decide who can ride the horse or have
me take it out of the room for a while?"

Values? ___

Tools? ___

Knowledge about guidance and discipline tools and about your own values will make
you a more effective caregiver. How would you handle Nicholas and Willy's


It's important to understand normal behaviors in each age and stage of childhood. Then
you, as a caregiver, can have a plan to deal with misbehavior. This section provides a
brief overview of what to expect from children, but it certainly does not tell you
everything you need to know about guiding and disciplining them. This section will give
you ideas so you'll be able to handle the day-to-day misbehaviors.

Sooner or later, children misbehave and caregivers have to handle it on-the-spot. The
following guidance and discipline methods are paired with an age and stage of child
development. What works with babies often does not work with preschoolers, so
caregivers need to know when to try each technique. In general, caregivers can use
each tool with children of that age group and with those who are older.

No guidance and discipline method works all the time. Some won't feel right to you, and
others won't "fit" the children. As children grow, guidance and discipline techniques also
must grow and change. Experiment until you find what works best for you. Try to learn
the names of these techniques even though the words may seem long and complicated.
Learning the official names of guidance and discipline methods will help you look them
up in other books and learn about them in more detail.


Infants can be expected to:

      cry when they need something;
      want their needs met by their caregivers;
      play with their bodies;
      be curious about everything;
      sleep less as they grow older;
      learn by using their senses - touch, taste, sight, smell, sound; and
      play with their food and eat with their fingers.

Babies cry a lot. They cry because they are hungry, thirsty, lonely, wet, scared, or tired.
Infants cry to tell caregivers they need something. If they are ignored or punished each
time they cry, their needs are not met. Babies learn to mistrust their caregivers and to
think of the world as an unsafe place.

While crawling on the floor exploring their homes, babies often discover breakable items
on shelves, tables, or in drawers. If they begin to play with these dangerous objects,
caregivers can switch their attention to other things that are safer. Babies have short
attention spans, so their
interests easily are shifted from item to item. A caregiver can simply approach the baby
in a friendly way, offer a stuffed toy, ball, or other safe object, and gently exchange that
for the breakable item. If the baby cries, caregivers can try another toy. This guidance
and discipline method is called diverting attention.


Toddlers can be expected to:

      say "no!" as a way to be independent and in control;
      enjoy "messy" activities;
      be curious about everything and want to explore;
      begin walking and talking;
      be possessive of their belongings and often say, "my" or "mine";
      be pokey and dawdle while eating, dressing, and picking up toys;
      be restless and have short attention-spans;
      cry and scream when asked to take turns or share; and
      have temper tantrums.

Toddlers are messy eaters. It is not okay to expect them to eat neatly or not to spill their
drinks. At 2 years old, their muscles are not well-developed enough to use a fork
correctly or hold a cup tightly. If caregivers punish toddlers every time they spill or get
messy, their self-esteem can be damaged.

Rules and limits tell toddlers that their caregivers care enough about them to watch out
for them and keep them safe. Since children are curious about themselves and their
worlds, however, they often challenge the rules or test the limits to see how far they can
go. Although rules may be well known to all, most toddlers need to be reminded about
them quite often. Caregivers should approach misbehaving children in a gentle, friendly
way, and then state a rule in a firm, simple manner. For example, "We sit on the couch
and jump on the floor."

A rule or limit should be clear enough so children understand what part of their behavior
is misbehavior and also, how they can change it into acceptable behavior. For example,
caregivers could say, "Screaming and yelling are too loud for indoors. If you want to
scream and yell, you need to go outside." Making rules in order to manage children's
misbehavior is called setting limits.

Sometimes toddlers will refuse to behave by the rules. A toddler's developmental job is
to learn control and be independent. A good way to do this is to say "No!" and refuse to
behave. If setting limits with toddlers doesn't work, caregivers might use another
guidance and discipline technique called offering choices. For example, if the caregiver
has stated a rule, "We play in the yard, not in the street," but the toddler has refused to
move, the caregiver might offer a choice. "Would you like to play in the yard or go inside
the house?" Typical toddlers will choose between the yard and the house because
choosing will allow them to be in control.

Caregivers need to be prepared to follow through with any of the choices they offer. If
there is something you as caregiver do not want children to do, do not offer it as a
choice, if the child really does not have one. For example, do not say, "Willy, would you
like to take your bath now?" when you really mean "Willy, come take your bath now."


Preschoolers can be expected to:

      ask a lot of questions;
      need physical activity;
      be interested in same-age friends;
      exaggerate or make up stories;
      be bossy; and
      say "no" when asked to help caregivers "clean-up".

"Throwing sand in people's eyes hurts. Remember how we talked about using the
shovel to dig instead of using it to toss sand around? Let's get the wagon and fill it up
with sand." This is an example of redirection. The caregiver has suggested an
acceptable behavior to replace the misbehavior. In this example, the child still gets to
use the shovel, but in a way that won't hurt others.

Redirecting means turning a problem activity or action into an acceptable one. This tells
children that you accept them and their ideas about play. For example, if a group of
preschoolers are throwing blocks, remove the blocks while saying, "blocks are for
building, not throwing." At the same time, give them something they can throw saying,
"If you want to throw something, see if you can get these beanbags into this basket."
This redirection tells children it is okay to be physical and to throw things as long as
what they throw is safe and won't hurt others.

Another guidance and discipline method to use with preschoolers is called time-out.
This works especially well when you are caring for more than one child. A time-out
works like this:

When Nicholas and Willy fight over a toy, their caregiver says, "Since you are having
trouble playing together, you both need a time-out. Nicholas, you take time-out in the
big chair in the living room and, Willy, you sit here at the kitchen table. Stay there for
five minutes, and I'll tell you when the time is up."

A time-out is not a punishment. It is just a boring stretch of time in a safe place when
nothing much happens. Time-outs work best with children between 3 and 12. This is an
especially good technique for settling squabbles because it is a "no-fault" plan and does
not blame one child over another for starting the fight.

When five minutes has passed, Nicholas' and Willy's caregiver says, "The five minutes
are up now. If you are ready to cooperate, you may come back to the play room."

By stating it this way, the children themselves decide what to do next. One or both of
them may decide to stay where they are and take more quiet time away from their
playmate. That's okay. The goal of a time-out is to stop misbehavior. It gives children
time to calm down, think about what they did, and realize that their caregiver is not
going to allow misbehavior to continue.

It always helps if children know what to expect from a guidance and discipline
technique, so before trying this method, talk to the children about how a time-out works.

Then, during a squabble, be sure to call a time-out in a cool, calm way - not in an angry
"yelling" voice. Remember that the objective of a time-out is to stop misbehavior, not to
punish. Time-outs can be used with toys, too. Remove the toy from the room for 10
minutes or until the children agree to use it properly.


Early school-aged children can be expected to:

      want to please adults, teachers and friends at school;
      fight strict rules and routines;
      flip-flop back and forth - sometimes seem grown-up, sometimes babyish and act
       differently at home than at school;
      be forgetful, messy, creative, and spontaneous;
      enjoy playing more than helping; and
      be interested in "right" and "wrong".
Early school-aged children are eager to please. They want to do the "right" thing so they
will be noticed by those who are important to them. Sometimes, however, children who
usually are well-behaved begin to misbehave. This often happens when they are feeling
ignored, mistreated, or unattended to. They misbehave to get attention - even if the
attention they end up with is punishment.

In the mind of a child, bad attention is better than no attention at all, and they will
misbehave if they feel that is the only way to be noticed.

When caregivers pay attention to misbehavior, they actually end up supporting it! Giving
attention to a child's behavior makes that behavior stronger. The trick, then, is to
support children when they are doing what you want them to do rather than when they
are misbehaving. When caregivers pay attention to a behavior, they reinforce behavior.
There are three ways to reinforce behavior:

Positive: paying attention to children when they are doing what you want them to do.

Negative: paying attention to children when they are misbehaving and doing what you
do not want them to do.

Ignore: paying no attention to misbehavior and attempts to be noticed.

Ignoring misbehavior every time takes patience and is sometimes impossible. For
example, if children are in danger, caregivers must pay attention to them.

Negative reinforcement happens each time caregivers stop what they are doing to pay
attention to a child's misbehavior. For example, Willy pulls the cat's tail once and gets
no reaction from her caregiver (even though she gets quite a reaction from the cat!).
She pulls the cat's tail again - still no notice from the caregiver. The third time, though,
the cat knocks over a vase of flowers as it tries to get away from Willy. This time, the
caregiver leaps to Willy's side, sits her on the couch, and lectures her about pulling the
cat's tail. After their talk, the caregiver insists that Willy help her clean up the mess.

Although the caregiver in this situation believes that she has disciplined Willy and taught
her a lesson about pulling cat's tails, what she has really taught Willy is this: "If you want
me to pay attention to you, pull the cat's tail!" In other words, many caregivers
unintentionally teach children to misbehave in order to get their attention. This would not
happen if caregivers paid attention to children while they were doing what they wanted
them to do, while they were behaving. Caregivers who want to positively reinforce
behavior can do it in two ways. They can tell children they like what they are doing. For
example, when a caregiver notices a child playing quietly they can say, "I like the way
you are playing quietly with the blocks." When early school-aged children know you like
something, they will continue to do it in order to please you.

The other way to make a behavior stronger is to spend time with children while they are
behaving. "I am glad you remembered the rules and went outside to play catch. How
about tossing me the ball?" Spending time with children while they are doing what you
want them to do saves them from having to misbehave just to get your attention.

The guidance and discipline tools introduced in this section can be used with children of
all ages, not just with the stages they are listed under. Experiment and have fun. Using
humor along with love and respect can help any guidance and discipline tool work a
little bit better!

Activities and practice can help you learn more about guidance and discipline. Because
no two children grow and develop in the same way, different guidance and discipline
methods may be needed for each child. Experiment with the ideas in this section and
practice using the tools whenever you can. It will make a difference in your caregiving

1. Tell the parents of the children you care for about a discipline technique you learned
in this section. Get their permission to practice it with their children, if the need arises.

2. Ask your mother or father their guidance and discipline beliefs. How did they
discipline you when you were a child? Write a short story about an incident you and
your parents both remember.

3. Go to the library and read more about guiding and disciplining children. Two more
advanced guidance and discipline tools you can study are called role modeling and
natural or logical consequences.

4. Make a guidance kit that you can take with you when you care for children. It may
include toys you can use to divert or redirect children's attention, and activities they can
participate in when you need to offer them choices. It also might include a "time-out"
box. The box would be used to put toys, materials, clothes (or anything) in for anywhere
from a half-hour to all day or night, if they were being misused or mistreated. For
example, "Willy, I have asked you not to color in that book, and since you have done it
anyway, the crayons will go into the "time-out" box for one hour. You will need to find
something else to play with now."

5. Never hit a child! Learn more about child abuse and how punishment sometimes gets
out of hand. Make a poster that shows abusive behavior versus acceptable behavior.
VERY IMPORTANT: Learn about your own "boiling point." Decide how you will handle
your own anger so you will not hurt a child. Some suggestions are:

      call your mother, father, sister, or brother, and ask for help;
      remove yourself from the room until you have had a chance to calm down and
       think of a plan or a technique you can use;
      call the child's parent(s) and ask for suggestions;
      breathe deeply and count to 30. Do as many exercises (like jumping jacks) as
       you can.

Sometimes a frustrated caregiver will shake a child, thinking this is a safe way to vent
anger. DON'T EVER SHAKE A CHILD. Shaking children can cause serious brain
damage and even death. It is especially dangerous to shake a child who is less than 1
year old.

6. When using a guidance or discipline tool, it is important to have eye contact with
children so you know they have heard and understood you. This means you may need
to squat, sit, kneel, or even climb so you will be at their level. Write a short paper telling
why this is necessary.

There are many different theories about guiding and disciplining children. Most of them
are designed to be used by parents or caregivers who spend time with a child nearly
every day. Since caregivers sometimes see children only occasionally, your best
resource right now is experience. Try each of the six methods described in this book
over and over again. When you have found one or two that seem to work for you most
of the time, ask your Cooperative Extension agent or librarian to help you find out more
about those specific discipline techniques.

National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the National Extension
Service Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission is
granted to reproduce these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only
(not for profit beyond the cost of reproduction) provided that the author and Network
receive acknowledgment and this notice is included:

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC.
Lagoni, L. S., Martin, D. H., Maslin-Cole, C., Cook, A., MacIsaac, K., Parrill, G.,
Bigner, J., Coker, E., & Sheie, S. (1989). Good times with guidance and discipline.
In *Good times with child care* (pp. 107-119). Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State
University Cooperative Extension.c