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Your Child: 8 to 11 years

Too Old for Time-Outs?

Everywhere you look, parenting experts are giving advice on how to make kids behave. Time-outs, rewards for good behavior, loss of privileges, clarifying the consequences ahead of time?the methods are abundant and varied. Yet so much of this "expert" advice doesn't work when it's supposed to.

Discipline methods that worked when your child was 6 years old probably won't work now. Children between the ages of 8 and 11 like to solve their own problems and do things by and for themselves. They also are beginning to evaluate and question life's rules. That's why, when it comes to discipline, you may need to change tactics.

Consider the following methods for guiding the behavior of your older child:

Hold family meetings.

Children at this age have difficulty accepting rules they did not help formulate. "It's not fair" becomes a frequent complaint. Use regular meetings to talk about rules and get input from all family members. Allow children to offer suggestions and make complaints. Meetings can be held weekly, or as the need arises.

Create behavior contracts.

Children ages 8 to 11 view life as either black or white, right or wrong. That's why behavior contracts work with older elementary children. Talk about rules in a family meeting, then post the rules on the refrigerator. Both parents and children sign the behavior contract, and if it is broken, the agreed-upon consequences are administered. (For more on family contracts, see page 28.)

Work as a team.

Both parents must agree on the family's rules and subsequent consequences. This is especially important for families where one parent is the disciplinarian and the other is the "fun" parent. Because children at this age are learning to see authority figures as fallible human beings, stay strong. When you set down a rule and related consequences, follow through. Let your child know that both parents care enough to set limits.

Continue to use time-outs.

Even at this age, time-outs can still be effective in helping children gain control of themselves, especially in tense situations such as sibling fights or temper tantrums.

Be a role model.

Your behavior, speech and actions can serve as an example to your children. Think of yourself as a stationary planet with your child as a tiny satellite revolving around you. The more stable you are, the more secure he will be. Model good behavior in the way you treat others, the attitude you display in your daily activities, and the way you handle disappointment.

You may try several approaches before finding one that works with your elementary-age child. Just remember discipline is a 24-hour-a-day task. Be consistent and follow through even when you don't feel like it. Soon, your discipline will become your child's self-discipline.

?Debra Fulghum Bruce
Writer, speaker, mother of three

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