CCCR recently hosted an early education symposium with Ron Davis. Ron Davis was a school psychologist in Ohio for 35 years, with the last 27 of them specializing in early childhood. Here are some concepts about effective discipline that he shared.
The word “discipline” is from the Latin word disciplina meaning “instruction and training”. “Disciple” shares this root word and reveals the true meaning of discipline–to teach a child a better way to respond, communicate or get their needs met. Effective discipline is not punishment, but a process of teaching the child a new way of behaving. A child will do better if they know how to do better. Simply punishing them, without teaching them a new response, will not change the challenging behavior.
The first ingredient of effective discipline is to set limits. This includes setting limits on what kind of behavior you will accept. The child needs to know what the expectations are. You might have to repeat the expectations multiple times to a young child. For example, you might say, “We’re going to listen to Mrs. Jones right now”. If the child keeps talking when you have made it clear that it is time to listen, just repeat the phrase again until they listen. Don’t change the wording. You want your directions to be clear.
Second, you must develop consequences that match the offending behavior. Consequences should be logical and rational. Spanking or violence is never the answer. A time-out is not a good consequence because the child does not learn a new behavior from it, but removing a child from a challenging situation can be useful. A time-out gives allows them to calm down so they can actually understand the consequences.
The last ingredient is to be consistent. The authority figure must always be consistent with their rules, consequences, and limits. Consistency is key for effective discipline. Consistency is often the most challenging part for parents and teachers. Sometimes you’re just tired; you want to give in. However, children thrive within boundaries. Consistent discipline is healthier for children, and it will eventually help children learn new behaviors and tools of self-regulation.
Strategies used in effective discipline must be developmentally appropriate and appropriate for the individual. It is important to recognize that each child is different; therefore, individualized strategies must be implemented.
Ron Davis was a school psychologist in Ohio for 35 years, with the last 27 of them specializing in early childhood. In 1992, he was honored as the “Ohio School Psychologist of the Year”. Following retirement from Toledo Public Schools, he taught at the University of Toledo full-time for 10 years in special education and early childhood. In addition to teaching as an adjunct professor in several universities, over the years, he also maintained a part time private practice with a pediatrician’s office. His passion has been in working with children and families who face challenges. Throughout the years, he has worked with outstanding educators who taught him the practical implementation of intervention. He has learned much from families over the years and feels, “Every parent does the best they can”.