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Dear Abby: Negative child discipline is destructive

SHARE Dear Abby: Negative child discipline is destructive

Dear Abby: This is in response to "Young Mom in Oklahoma" (May 7), who wrote asking if it was OK to discipline her 4-year-old by smashing his toys with a hammer. Your response was appropriate. However, that mother should be encouraged to attend parenting classes or speak to her son's pediatrician regarding her problem with how to discipline her son. I am very concerned for the child's well-being if she even has to ask if it's OK to smash his toys with a hammer. —A Mom Who Cares

Dear Mom: You were not the only person to suggest that "Young Mom" attend parenting classes. I heard from other parents and child-care professionals who were appalled at her behavior. Read on:

Dear Abby: As a student and researcher in psychology, I've come to learn that the only way time-outs work is if the parent uses "time-in." This is time in which the parent engages in positive physical contact with the child (such as a pat on the head, a hug or a high-five). Being in the room with the child while the child plays and engaging in conversations with the child during play are other important parts of time-in.

Time-out then becomes a punishment because you are taking the child away from the positive and loving environment you create using time-in. Because the child finds time-in rewarding, he/she will not want to experience time-out and thus will stop the negative behavior. —Graduate Student in Psychology

Dear Abby: I feel for "Young Mom in Oklahoma," but don't see how smashing a 4-year-old's toys will have any effect other than instilling violent behavior in her son. Parents should not try to intimidate their children, but rather help them find solutions and/or ways to make better decisions.

As a child development associate, I have been trained in positive discipline. It is a wonderful tool for parents, and many classes are offered nationwide. —Offering Alternatives in Kentucky

Dear Abby: You were on the mark about not smashing the 4-year-old's toys in front of him, but I think giving away a child's toys at his age is quite harsh. For goodness' sake, this is a 4-year-old, and he will have his moments and meltdowns. Removing a toy with the promise of returning it with good behavior is a far more positive reinforcement. —Older Mom in Wisconsin

Dear Abby: I took all my daughter's toys out of her room and made her earn them back with good behavior. This may seem drastic, but it worked well. She is now 5, and she's great. All the sassy acting-up she did before is gone. (She also has a newfound respect for her toys.)

P.S. I really liked your advice about giving the toys to charity. Some toys my daughter didn't want to earn back, and we let her take them to Goodwill. It was a positive learning experience for her. —Been Through it in Oregon

Dear Abby: I was an extremely disobedient child (later diagnosed with ADHD), so my parents set up a token system. For every good thing I did, I got a token. Disorderly conduct resulted in tokens being removed from the jar.

There were prizes that could be earned with a certain number of tokens. The prizes included going to the movies with my parents, going to lunch with them and various other activities with them. The key was that the prizes were not material, but based on my relationship with my parents. —Jennifer in Bakersfield, Calif.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069. © Universal Press Syndicate