When kids enter school, they may become more independent and more difficult to discipline as a result of outside influences. Oftentimes, the more demanding you become while trying to maintain control, the more resistant they seem to become. When parents remain calm and discipline with creativity and consistency, positive changes in behavior can occur. To make your life easier and defuse situations that could turn into all-out battles, plan ahead and keep a sense of humor.
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Lend a Hand
You can have a daily battle with your child about putting away her toys or you can set boundaries to keep your home in order. Give your child a time frame for putting toys away -- perhaps just before bedtime. Any toy left out goes into a large trash bag. At the end of the week, give her the opportunity to earn back the toys by doing chores. Donate toys she doesn’t earn back to a charity for underprivileged children. Establish these guidelines in advance so she knows what will happen, and then stick to it. Your 7 year old is also ready for chores that contribute to the family. Give her a list to choose from. She is more likely to do chores willingly when they are of her choosing.
Children need the structure of a set bedtime, but they also need time to wind down from school or the day’s activities. Give your child time to relax before “lights out“ by letting him read for 30 minutes after he gets in bed. If he argues about his bedtime, let him know that bedtime becomes 5 minutes earlier for every complaint.
Hold Your Tongue
Many 7 year olds are intrigued by bad words. If your child speaks inappropriately or disrespectfully, have her “hold her tongue” -- literally. Instruct her to stick out her tongue and hold it with her thumb and forefinger for one minute. It may not seem like much time, but a minute moves very slowly when you are doing something you don’t want to do. If she persists in using bad words, give her the opportunity to say as many bad words as she can in 30 seconds. Let her do this once a month. Make that the only time bad words are to be used.
Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
When discipline is a logical consequence of your child's misbehavior, he is more likely to accept it. If you have instructed your child to put his bike in the garage and he leaves it in the driveway, he loses the privilege of riding his bike. Calmly explain to him that you are worried that you will back the car over it and destroy it, so it’s best that he not ride it for a while. Everyone is forgetful at times and should be given an occasional “do-over” when he makes a mistake. However, if your child frequently forgets his homework or lunch, rather than running to school to save him, employ logical consequences by letting him know you are busy and can’t come right now, but will get there when you can. For the repeat offender, charge him for the gas it takes you to make the trip to school.
Just Do It
Some kids express themselves with gusto. When your child stomps around the house or has a tantrum, let her know it’s OK to be upset, but the family doesn’t really want to hear it. Send her into the yard to stomp or scream for one minute before returning to the house, where you expect her to be calm. For annoying behaviors, such as slamming doors, show her how you expect her to close the door, then have her practice the correct procedure 100 times to “get it right.”