How to Discipline Children (& Teens) with Behavioral Disorders

Parents of children with attention or anxiety disorders have one time or another received that dreaded “call home” about their child’s behavior. Some school administrators might recommend relying on medical interventions; but many parents have found that leaning on holistic programs help their child feel more confident at home, at school, and with friends.

Although, most remedies do not address the process of training your child to behave in a respectful manner. Of course, navigating a child with a behavioral disorder is challenging, but there are effective and compassionate ways reprimand a child while supporting them. Here are a few easy tips to keep in mind when disciplining children with behavioral disorders.

Set Boundaries

Discipline gets easier when there are direct consequences. Most adults are familiar with natural consequences occurring in their own lives. If we don’t pay our electricity bill, our lights will be turned off. If we don’t arrive at the station on time, the train will leave without us.

Laying out the consequences for intolerable behavior beforehand is setting limits. Not only is this a great way to prevent those dreaded calls home, but also the key to improving a child’s relationships at school, at play, and in public.

Practice Mindfulness

In the midst of strong emotions, kids can lose sight of what they’re actually doing and saying. Even though “time outs” are not deemed an effective way to improve a behavior, there are benefits to children being siloed for some “quiet time” and mini-meditation. Practicing mindfulness through breathing exercises can help ground and focus a child in the present moment while they detach from heightened feelings that may be influencing their behavior. You can also have a child reflect on their behavior by having them write down in a journal what they did, why they did it, and why they are being disciplined for it. This exercise allows them to take the time to think about their actions and the consequences connected to them.

Take Away Screen Time

Discipline should include the temporary removal of something a child likes. This is a prime opportunity to cut back on a child’s screen time. Screens have a significant impact on child development and should be monitored with or without behavioral problems being the incentive. With that said, screens are also as stimulating as they are distracting. Children (especially teenagers), who frequently play video games or engage in social media, are familiar with the rewards that come from interacting with technology.

This reward-specific pattern is one of the reasons kids tend to gravitate, and might sometimes even become addicted, to their technology. In contrary, children are introduced to consequences when they miss out on rewards for “not playing the game right”. This logic can easily be brought into a conversation while disciplining a child with behavior problems. When a child is obedient and respectful to the rules, they’ll be rewarded for “playing the behavior game right,” and if they misbehave, they’ll lose rewards (like screen time).

Be Consistent

Disciplining a child will never be easy but consistency is key. Stay firm about the boundaries you set and the consequences in place for poor behavior. Once a child is conditioned, they issues will decrease. But of course, not all children are the same. If the behavior problems keep occurring, continue to communicate why certain actions cannot happen while allowing the child to explain their intention. This conversation will provide more insight into how the child thinks and if they truly understand the situation at hand.