Be Child Care Aware Appropriate Discipline Helps Children Develop Self-discipline

Pamela Rupert, White, Rebecca E., Gioe, Cheri M.  |  6/24/2005 1:09:17 AM

News You Can Use for February 2004

One of the most frequently asked questions parents have when interviewing a child-care program operator is "What type of discipline do you use?"

So that means it’s important to review your child-care center’s policy on discipline to make sure it fits with your discipline philosophy.

"Naturally, discipline is an important part of the parent/child or teacher/child relationship," LSU AgCenter associate Cheri Gioe says. "As children grow and become more independent, misbehavior generally begins to occur."

Gioe says discipline is the role parents and teachers play in reducing frustration as young children develop. And she says the point of the discipline should be to teach.

"The goal of discipline is to assist children in developing self-discipline and problem-solving strategies that will enable them to interact with others in a safe and appropriate manner, now and later in life," Gioe stresses.

When examining a child-care center’s discipline policy there are several things to look for, according to Gioe and LSU AgCenter family development specialist Dr. Becky White.

"Teachers should manage children’s behavior through a combination of guidance and discipline," White advises, explaining, "Guidance is used to prevent inappropriate behaviors, while discipline is used to teach appropriate behavior."

Minimum standards set by the Louisiana Department of Social Services for Class A child-care providers require all centers to establish a written discipline policy and to display that policy prominently.

The discipline policies are required to include the types of positive discipline that are used and the types of discipline that are prohibited.

"The state’s minimum standards do not allow any type of corporal punishment or verbal or abusive threats," Gioe explains. "They also don’t allow children to discipline other children, children to be removed from the sight of staff or children to be disciplined in association with meals or snacks."

While those points apply to discipline, the LSU AgCenter experts say you also should know what to look for in terms of guidance from a child-care program.

They say some of the indications that teachers are using appropriate guidance techniques with the children they are caring for include:

Environments are well organized.

Children may choose a variety of materials to play with.

Appropriate activities are available to the children.

Waiting times are realistic.

The area is childproofed.

There are reasonable limits and rules.

Teachers use reason and explanations to assist children.

Teachers use positive, rather than negative, language.

Children are given time to do activities and comply with commands.

Adults act as positive role models.

Teachers act kindly toward children.

Teacher’s tone of voice is sincere.

Children are given choices that the adult is willing to live with and experience.

Consistency and planning are evident in the environment.

As for discipline, only a few techniques are appropriate for use in the child-care setting, according to Gioe. These include:

Redirection. Redirection is simply when the teacher suggests an alternate, appropriate activity/setting or choice of activity/setting to a child when a situation is about to get out of control.

Natural Consequences. Natural consequences is when a child learns something as a result of a natural consequence. For example, when a child runs on a wet, tile floor, the floor is slippery and the child could learn from slipping or falling down what the natural consequences of that action are.

Logical Consequences. When natural consequences are not working or are not safe, logical consequences should be used. The consequences of a behavior should relate to the behavior. For example, if children do not put their toys away, knowing that they should, then it is appropriate to take their toys away from them.

Time Out. Time out should be used as a last resort. Time out can be very effective when used sparingly and appropriately. Before beginning the process of time out, care providers should identify the specific behavior that needs to be changed, where the time out space is located (a place that is not frightening and where children are still visible to care providers,) and the appropriate length of time for time out. (In general, children are placed in time out for 1minute per year they are old.) The person putting the child in time out should always begin the time out and follow up the time out with a one-on-one conversation with the child about what took place and why.

"Remember there is no one right way to guide or discipline children," White says. "Something that works one day in one situation may not work in another, and, of course, keep in mind that different children respond differently to different types of discipline."

The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.


Cheri Gioe at (225) 578-6701 or
Becky White at (225) 578-3921 or
Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or

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