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Tips on Rules

Young children who are used to clear rules and consistent consequences are less likely to risk using alcohol and other drugs as they get older. They are also more likely to have the self-confidence to say "no." On the other hand, studies show that children are at greater risk for drug abuse in homes where punishment is too severe or where there is no discipline.

Below are seven steps to positive discipline.

  1. Discuss how rules protect health, safety, and the rights of children and others. Let children know you love them too much to let them take dangerous risks or get into trouble. Set rules to help them take care of themselves, avoid dangerous situations, and respect themselves and others.
  2. Discuss how different families have different rules. Let your child know that, in different houses and in different countries, families may have different rules. In your family, your child follows the family's rules.
  3. Discuss your rules and expectations in advance. Make clear rules with your child. Make sure everyone understands the consequences for breaking the rules. Don't make too many rules-you might not remember or enforce them all consistently.
  4. Follow through with the consequences. Children need to know that rules are enforced. Young children test their boundaries. Clear negative messages let them know potential dangers.
  5. Don't make any rules you do not intend to enforce. Rules without consequences have no meaning for children, so set rules you know you can and will enforce.
  6. Don't impose harsh or unexpected new punishments. Stick to consequences that have been set ahead of time. Be sure that anger doesn't influence your discipline. If you need one, give yourself a "cooling off" period before confronting your child.
  7. Praise children when they follow the rules. Positive reinforcement helps them develop self-confidence and trust in their own judgment.
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Updated on 3/21/2012