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Expert Answers to Parenting Questions

Q: Can you recommend a good discipline strategy for 10-year-olds?

A: Discipline is often thought of as a negative action. However, there are ways to use positive discipline that can also be helpful in parenting. More than anything, children want their parents’ attention. Often negative attention is better then no attention at all. In using positive discipline, you are not so much changing your child’s behavior as changing your reaction to their behavior.

Start by giving one direction at a time, rather then multiple directions simultaneously. Show your child what you want done. Then ask him to repeat your direction to make sure it is understand. Then discuss a possible incentive, if appropriate, for completing the task within an agreed upon time frame. Also, at this time discuss the consequences for not completing the direction — and follow through.

In time, you will teach your child that you are serious about your boundaries. He will also begin to like the positive outcome of his choices and want to enjoy them more. Also, remember not to give vague directions, but stay clear. For instance, don’t ask him if he wants to clean his room. We know what the answer to that will be. Also, don’t follow the direction with a long explanation. This can get you into a word battle that you don’t want.

Consistency is the key skill in parenting. Discipline is always an opportunity to teach a life lesson. This change may take practice for both you and your child. Children sometimes will challenge you to see if you are going to do what you say. This is where consistency is so important. Be prepared for your child to turn the heat up, possibly grumbling, stomping his feet or telling you how unfair you are. Do not react from anger. Simply try to remain calm and consistent in your methods.

Q: Our daughter is 11 months old and we’ve missed most of her vaccinations for economic reasons. We still can’t afford them, but I know it’s important. What do we do now?

A: Yes, vaccinations are very important in helping children to build the correct immunities to many different diseases. If you are struggling economically there are often places that can help you. Care-A-Van, a mobile health clinic sponsored by Bon Secours Richmond Health Systems, offers immunizations to those who are without health insurance. You can also try the local clinics in your community to see what is available. If you are without health insurance for your child, there is a program called FAMIS that is specifically for children. Call 866-87FAMIS or visit You can also contact your local social service agency to find out what others services are available and what changes may be on the horizon with regard to the recently passed healthcare reform legislation.

Valerie McAllister is a family educator with Commonwealth Parenting.
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