Wood's Homes Blog

7 ways for parents to use assertive discipline with their child

May 26, 2015
By Carmen Campos, Wood's Homes Family Support Counsellor
7 ways for parents to use assertive discipline with their child

Disciplining a child effectively is a struggle for all parents at some point.

Assertive discipline means being consistent and acting quickly when a child misbehaves. Staying calm and using fair, predictable consequences that match the problem behavior is recommended. When children are misbehaving or upset, it is best to avoid yelling, name calling, threatening or spanking.

Discipline helps children accept necessary rules and limits and develop self-control. Discipline works best when the child lives in a predictable world and receives plenty of attention for good behaviour.

Here are some tips from Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) on how to use assertive discipline:

  1. Use planned ignoring for minor misbehaviour when it seems to be an attempt by your child to get your attention. Try not to give attention.
  1. Use your voice effectively by staying calm, getting close to your child and using a firm voice. Speaking to them in a raised voice will teach your child that we shout to get what we want.
  1. Use directed discussion if your child misbehaves or forgets a rule. Directed discussion is about identifying and rehearsing the correct behaviour following rule-breaking.  First, check to see that your child knows the rule. Remind him of the rule if he does not know and get him to practise what he should have done.
  1. Give clear, calm instructions to let your child know what you want him to do. To tell your child to start doing something, we use ‘start instructions’ (eg. “Michael, wash your hands now, please.”).
    • When your child is misbehaving and you want them to stop, we use ‘stop instructions’ (eg. “Michael, stop pushing your friend. Keep your hands to yourself.”).
    • Generally try to repeat a ‘start instruction’ only once and do not repeat a ‘stop instruction’ at all.

After you give an instruction, wait five seconds to see if you child does as you asked. If not, use a back-up consequence such as:

  1. Take away a problem activity when it is a cause for misbehaving. Remove it for a short time (5-30 minutes) and return the activity afterwards for your child to practise it correctly.
  1. Back-up instructions with quiet time. This involves removing your child from the activity in which a problem has occurred and having him sit quietly in the same room for a short time. Allow your child to return to the activity after the set time.

During quiet time, parents should not give the child any attention since this is a time for the child to be quiet.  Shorter periods in quiet time are more effective than longer periods.  Recommended periods for quiet time are one minute for 2-year-olds, two minutes for 3 to 5-year-olds and no more than five minutes for 5 to 10-year-olds.

  1. Use timeout for serious misbehavior. Timeout can be used when your child does not sit quietly in quiet time, or as a consequence for a temper outburst or serious misbehaviour such as hurting others. Timeout works the same way as quiet time except that your child is put in another room away from everyone else. The room should be uninteresting for the child, yet safe with good lighting and ventilation.Likewise, short periods in timeout are more effective than longer periods. You child needs to know the rules and expectations of timeout before you can start using it. To help them understand, you can walk them through the steps of the timeout routine.  After the set time, parents should return the child to the activity and try not to talk about the incident again.

For these new parenting skills to be effective, they need to be practised. If used consistently, you may see your child’s behaviours improve and a decrease in the need for timeouts.