Parents and caregivers have a responsibility to guide and promote positive socialization strategies for children in their care. These activities are known as discipline or guidance-two words that are often used interchangeably in parenting education. Discipline is defined as “ongoing teaching and nurturing that facilitates self-control, self-direction, competence, and care for others”.  It is recommended that caregivers utilize a comprehensive disciplinary approach for guiding children’s behaviors.
Caregivers should proactively teach children how to regulate their own behaviors by using age- and developmentally—appropriate strategies that enhance:
- positive, supportive, and nurturing caregiver-child relationships,
- safety, permanency, and consistency,
- acceptable behavioral patterns by removing reinforcements to eliminate undesired behaviors and providing positive reinforcements to strengthen desired behaviors, and
- cognitive, socioemotional, and executive functioning skills.
For optimal outcomes, all of the above components must consistently function well in an individualized manner for each child, and within the context of youth, feeling loved, safe, and secure. Recommended child-rearing strategies are outlined in upcoming pages.
Examples of caregivers’ guidance by stage:
- Newborns: recognize and respond flexibly to infant’s needs while providing generally structured daily routines.
- Infants and toddlers: use limitations, protection, and structure to create safe spaces for play and exploration.
- Early childhood: utilize creative and individualized strategies to guide children’s desirable behavior patterns to become their “typical interactions”.
- School-age: increase children’s own responsibility for self-control via the integration of previously-developed internalized rules of conduct.
- Adolescence: change strategies to foster more autonomy, self-regulation, and responsibility while guiding teens’ safety and positive decision-making skills.
For more information about positive parenting strategies by ages and stages, visit the CDC website.