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Set rules ahead of time to avoid fights

There’s one universal truth about kids: they are noisy, which can be highly challenging for family members. To address this effectively, parents need to set clear boundaries and expectations while using non-harsh, positive discipline practices. Providing expectations and consequences for behavior ahead of time also teaches children accountability and responsibility. The manner in which appropriate expectations are delivered is essential to achieving good outcomes. Diana Baumrind, a clinical developmental psychologist known for her research on parenting styles, recommends a balanced “authoritative parenting” style: authoritative parents set rules and limits and expect a high level of maturity and cooperation from their children. However, contrary to “authoritarian” parents, “authoritative parents” offer children lots of emotional support. When children make mistakes, authoritative parents help children understand what went wrong, explaining the consequences of good and bad behavior. This warm, democratic parenting style, which balances authority with emotional support, is associated with a variety of positive outcomes for children and adolescents, including increased school achievement and reduced risky behaviors (Steinberg, Elmen, & Mounts, 1989; DeVore & Ginsburg, 2005).

When children misbehave, we recommend that parents act not as tough disciplinarians but rather, as teachers. As our children’s teachers, our goal is to respectfully and calmly enforce rules, but also give them choices and positively reinforce good behaviors (in cartoon: “You can use your inside voice here, or go to your bedroom where you can be as loud as you want”). Authoritative parenting is administered in a way that is firm and loving at the same time. Such discipline is also preventative, as it means ensuring that children know family rules and consequences ahead of time (in cartoon: “Can you remind me the rules when you are inside the house?”). Reviewing such expectations serves to avoid the problems all together.

Noisy behavior can also occur when children are playing well together. Not such a bad thing! The fact that they are engaging in positive play should be rewarded (in cartoon: “You boys are doing such a great job playing together!”). While parents may want to address the noise level, they also want to continue encouraging creative play. To help accomplish this, parents can present choices or fun alternatives. If kids are not allowed to be loud in certain areas of the house and need to go to their bedroom, reminding them of this rule should be carried-out calmly and without anger. With this method, both parents and children win: parents achieve their desired outcome without resentment and children continue to enjoy their boisterous fun!
Key take-aways to set rules ahead of time:

1) Make sure that children are aware of rules ahead of time, and agree that rules make sense. You can ask the children to describe the rules back to you to make sure they understand and know them.

2) Discipline positively. You are a teacher, not a punisher. Rules are set to protect everyone’s safety and well-being (in cartoon: “We have to use our inside voice”), not to punish (in ‘What to avoid’ cartoon: “That’s it. I’m taking the toys away”).

3) When a child fails to abide by the rules, your job as a teacher is to give them reminders (in cartoon: “Can you remind me the rules inside the living room?”). You can even exaggerate in a playful way (“oh nooo… someone forgot the rule!”).

4) Suggest fun alternatives. This will help you avoid being perceived as the punisher. See Magic Way 2 for details.

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