While punishment may stop a behavior in the moment, teaching your child what you expect of him using positive discipline can help to change or prevent unwanted behavior, according to the brochure, "What is Positive Discipline?" published for the Maryland State Department of Education. Positive discipline focuses on respect and fairness, with an emphasis on helping children to learn how to behave appropriately, rather than to just avoid negative behavior or wrong-doings to avoid punishment. Through positive discipline, necessary skills such as problem-solving, self-control, cooperation and responsibility can be achieved as children grow and mature.
Children up to the age of 3 imitate their parents because their natural desire at this age is to please their parents, according to Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D., author of "The Everything Guide to Positive Discipline." Show your child what you want done. Rather than cleaning up for her, say, "Let's clean up together. You put the blocks in this container and I'll put the trains in this one." Follow your instructions with placing a block in the appropriate container to show her what you would like done. Model appropriate behavior in all areas and encourage your youngster to follow.
Sometimes parents become over-focused on bad behavior and they overlook the times that their child is doing what is appropriate. When you catch your little one behaving, praise him, advises the Provider-Parent Partnership of Purdue University Extension. Give specific praise to your child when he does what you'd like him to do. For example, if your son says please when he asks for another cup of water, say, "Matt, I like how you used your manners to ask for a drink." Give him a hug or a high-five to compliment the praise.
Young children require a great deal of attention and may say and do things to get a reaction from their parents. Redirecting her attention while ignoring the behavior may be more than enough to put a stop to it if she is seeking attention. It is likely she will move on to something that earns her the attention she desires. If your child is using bad language to get a rise out of you, instead of responding in an angry manner, simply say, "Let's think of a silly word to use instead." Come up with one and laugh together when she uses it.
Learning how to behave in an appropriate manner is hard work for young children. Set simple rules in your home with clear, age-appropriate consequences. Go over the rules and make sure your child understands what the consequences will be. For example, if your son throws his ball in the house, he will not be allowed to play with it. To avoid confusing your child, enforce the rules consistently. Give your child simple choices, such as what color shirt he would like to wear, to give him a sense of control over his day, advises the Maryland Family Network.