The West

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Have you ever found yourself yelling while reeling off a ridiculous set of consequences for your children's bad behaviour?

Things like "If you do that one more time, I will cancel Christmas" or "No more play dates for two months" or "Stop fighting, or there'll be no television for a week"?

The problem is you can't cancel Christmas, you might need the play dates as much they do, and the entire family not watching the idiot box for a week is a tough ask for many.

Sometimes you will make good on your threats but other days, when it's all too hard, the same behaviour slips by unnoticed or unpunished.

Losing your temper, bribery and inconsistency are just some of the discipline mistakes busy parents make. They are common - and sometimes justified - but in the end ineffective, say parenting experts.

Getting the balance right could be tricky, especially when children were at different developmental stages, said Ngala's practice consultant educator Wendy Muller.

"The word discipline comes from the Latin, which means to guide and teach," she said.

"Parents should remember that 'discipline' and punishment are not the same thing; shouting and smacking ultimately don't teach a child to regulate their emotions or develop a child's internal dialogue in a healthy way."

Ms Muller said a child's age should be the first consideration when deciding how to discipline, while consistency of message, and being clear about consequences, were also vitally important.

Pia Broderick, a clinical and developmental psychologist from Murdoch University's School of Psychology, said abuse should never masquerade as discipline, while overly rigid parenting styles could create an unassailable distance between parents and children as they grew older.

"On the other hand I never condone parents being 'friends' or being too permissive," Associate Professor Broderick said.

"Kids have lots of people they can call friends - parents should be teachers and protectors first."

When devising the rules, parents should have a set of non-negotiable limits in their home, and they should stick to those, parenting specialist and author Maggie Dent said.

"Any inconsistency between Mum and Dad is something children pick up on very quickly and it opens the door to the children using guilt and manipulation in getting around the rules," she said.

Parents who looked after their own emotional wellbeing and employed preventative measures often fared better than parents who made up the rules as they went along, Ms Muller said.

"Relationships are hard work and we all make mistakes and learn so much more when we do; no one is perfect, and it's never too late to make changes," she said.

The West Australian

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