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How to Discipline a Child Who Does Not Listen

By Brenda Scottsdale ; Updated June 13, 2017

Even the sweetest, most compliant child sometimes doesn't listen to his parents, as children naturally test boundaries and limits as they learn to function independently. Ask Dr. Sears notes that children need discipline during their growth and learning process to help them feel safe and build their own internal controls. To be effective disciplinarians, parents must teach children the rules, set limits and teach new coping skills at an age-appropriate level.

Manage His Space

Keep your child safe by controlling his environment, removing him from temptation objects that may trigger misbehavior. Move dangerous substances, such as cleaning supplies, medications or firearms out of your child's reach and place them in locked cabinets whenever possible. Ask Dr. Sears suggests you set up a parenting environment where your child feels safe and his needs are consistently and appropriately met. This bond will become the basis for effective discipline as your child matures because he will trust you and respect your limits.

Say "No" Often

One of the first limits parents set with children is to say "no," according to KidsHealth. Use timeout with a younger child by directing him to sit alone in a quiet spot with no distractions -- approximately one minute for every year of his age to allow him to calm down and experience consequences for not listening. Try grounding with older children, restricting their movements to one area of the house, such as their bedroom, for an evening.

Explain Yourself

Children need to understand why you're imposing rules and expectations in order to apply what they've learned to new situations, according to KidsHealth. Explain the rule and outline the consequences for disobedience in a way that's concrete. Reward positive behavior in equal measure, teach coping skills and educate your child about appropriate ways to behave. If misbehavior persists, use a chart to track punishments and rewards to make the concept visual and concrete.

Keep it Real

Make discipline for school-age children realistic and time-limited. Use natural consequences, such as your child not having any cookies left to eat if she feeds them all to the dog. Listen and empathize with your child's feelings while consistently holding boundaries and imposing consequences. When you must impose a consequence, HealthyChildren.org suggests withholding items, such as toys that your child likes, without taking away items she needs, such as food or clothing.

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