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Effective Ways to Discipline a Six-Year-Old


​I don’t think I am ​effectively disciplining my 6-year-old son. He has been getting into trouble at school daily for talking too much. To reinforce that this is unacceptable behavior, I have taken away privileges such as watching TV and playing video games from a few hours to a few days. When this occurs, he just sits quietly in his room and I am concerned that this is not healthy for him. I have also tried sending him to bed early, but this too does not deter the behavior. He seems immune to punishment. What do I do?


The best way to change negative behaviors is to use effective consequences, teach alternative, desirable behaviors, and then praise children when they use those desirable behaviors. Often, parents focus so much on issuing ​negative consequences that they forget to reinforce a child’s positive behaviors.

It is good that you are issuing consequences. Your consequences will be most effective if you give them to your son immediately after a negative behavior occurs and then follow up by teaching (repeatedly and consistently) an appropriate, desired behavior. Have your son practice new behaviors and skills daily to ensure he understands what is expected of him.  

You also can schedule a meeting with his teacher to discuss some immediate consequences the teacher can use to address your son’s disruptive classroom behavior and some alternative behaviors to talking out of turn (e.g., raising his hand before speaking). Then you can practice these appropriate alternatives with him at home.  

Your son is young, so learning new behaviors will take time and a lot of practice. So be patient. To “sweeten” the deal and keep him motivated, reward him for practicing positive behaviors with a little something extra, like an additional story at bedtime or a larger scoop of ice cream for dessert.  

A sticker chart can also be a handy visual learning device. For example, your son can earn a sticker each day he comes home from school without any negative reports for talking in class. After a week, if he has earned a predetermined number of stickers, he can use them to purchase an extra privilege. Select privileges you know will motivate him. After a few weeks of this routine, his behaviors in school and at home should start ​to show some ​improvement.