Grade School: Disciplining Effectively

This was taken directly from Child Welfare Information Gateway


The purpose of discipline is to teach children acceptable behavior and how to develop their own internal controls. Discipline should take into account your child’s abilities, learning styles, and family history. Many resources are available for helping parents learn and use positive discipline. This section offers a few strategies that may be particularly useful for parents of adopted children.

Establish Routines and Rules

Consistent routines and rules are important for school-age children. They help children learn what to expect, which helps them to feel more secure and confident. Be patient when teaching family rules and routines to your adopted child. Children who were neglected, who had frequent changes in caretakers, or who lived in group settings may need extra time to understand healthy family structure and consistency. They may have to unlearn past patterns as they learn new ones.

Consider your child’s skills and previous experiences when you set rules or decide if a particular activity is allowed. A neglected child often needs more parental supervision than other children of the same age. You may need to protect and supervise as you would a younger child.

Use Rewards and Consequences

Make every effort to recognize and reward good behavior. Praise can go a long way in encouraging yoru child’s positive behavior. Be sure to praise specific behavior (“Great job cleaning your room,” “I appreciate how nicely you shared with your little sister!”) rather than say something general (“You’re a good girl”).

Also help your child understand the consequences of his or her negative behavior. Imposing a consequence or taking away a privilege (not going to the playground or less time for video games) is more effective in teaching better behavior when the child can see a logical connection to his or her actions. If, for example, your child rides his bicycle on a busy street where he has been told not to ride, then a fitting consequence might be no after-school bike riding for the next 3 days.

Neglected children and children with learning delays or prenatal substance abuse effects may need help understanding cause and effect. In some cases, children suffering from prenatal effects may never be able to make a connection between behavior and rewards or consequences.

Consider Time In Rather than Time Out

Many parents like to use time out—placing a child in a safe place to think things over or cool down alone. This time out method, however, is not always appropriate for children who have been maltreated, who have attachment issues, or who were raised in orphanages. The first goal in parenting these children is to help them form healthy attachments. In these cases, it is better to have the child remain close to you until he or she regains enough control to return to the previous activity (time in). This is useful because it avoids isolating children from their parents, playmates, and the rest of the family.

Continue to Grade School: Improving Your Child's School Experience or Adoption Parenting


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