Whether you’re trying to get chores done at home, or rushing out the door to be somewhere, a completely routine moment with your child can quickly escalate into a full on power struggle. It takes very little for this to happen – sometimes no reason at all behind the sudden tantrum. Young children are still learning how to behave towards people and how to manage their emotions by taking cues from the people around them. Their behavior may be related to their mood, or they may simply be tired or frustrated. Instead of sorting out the issue by yelling, punishing, or issuing a tricky ultimatum, tap into positive disciplining. Disciplining doesn’t always mean punishment. Truthfully, it is about encouraging children to behave appropriately and understand the basics of good behaviour. In fact, a lot of effective disciplining methods are built on communicating, and work best when parents have a warm and loving relationship with their children. Patience, empathy, and firmness are the key to active problem solving. Scroll down to learn how to implement them!
1. The Earlier The Better!
The toddler years are an ideal time to start introducing and maintaining boundaries, because that is the time when young children first start to experiment with different behaviours, sometimes even learning how to push boundaries – if they aren’t corrected, they become cemented habits. I can personally tell you that my 2 year old (who is too young to understand situations) is more likely to vary his behaviour to test boundaries than my 4 year old, who recognizes the connection between behaviour, other peoples’ feelings, and consequences.
2. Established A Set Of Family Rules
When it comes to creating rules, a good start to start with is ‘be firm, but fair.’ The same rules should apply to everyone. There have been days when I have opened a packet of crisps for myself to eat, but not allowing my child to eat them, using the logic that I am a parent, and I am older. It was much later that I realized how unfair, or even cruel, it might have seemed to them. Children will test their boundaries and question their surroundings, so be ready to commit to these rules as a family and try to be consistent.
3. Focus On The Cause, Not The Symptoms
A great deal of positive discipline requires zooming out and taking a look at the bigger picture. Sometimes children behave a certain way because of their emotions, and trust me, they have stronger emotional reactions than we do! There’s been many a time when my children has grabbed onto me while I was going somewhere because they were afraid of being left behind. The process of going out for the evening involves a lot of tears, and it took me quite some time to make them understand that I temporarily have other commitments but will always be back.
4. Explain Negative Consequences
It is imperative for children to see that if they do something that crosses the line, there will be consequences in store for them. They should know exactly why they have received the negative consequence, though, or the punishment won’t create a long lasting effect. The information they gauge from the consequence is much more valuable. One effective method of practicing negative consequences that parents can try is the standard ‘time out’ or taking their favorite toy from them. Personally, time out works more successfully for me, as I can easily reduce anything I want – including screen time, without physically snatching away something that is dear to them.
5. Limit Your Time Outs
Time outs give children the time and removed environment to think about what they did wrong. Time out is probably the most effective disciplinary strategy, but it must be practiced in moderation. As parents, you need to be clear about the length of the time out your child needs to take, and why the time out was required. Punishing a child who does not understand what he / she has done wrong is not only unfair, but ineffective aswell.
6. The Importance Of Positive Reinforcement
The use of positive reinforcement is possibly the most essential motivational tool in the book. Praise children when you see them behaving really well: when they finish a healthy meal that you know they don’t love, when they learn a new word or alphabet, or even when they kick a ball hard! Be kind and generous with your praise.
7. Be Firm, But Be Calm
Instead of getting angry and irritable, come from a place of empathy and logic. Make sure they know that when they do something wrong, you are unhappy. Unhappy does not necessarily translate to being angry. This is important because children take their behavioural cues from parents, so model the sort of behaviour you expect from them. They’re learning it from you, after all. Do not yell at a child for yelling, do not snatch something away from a child who has snatched something. Focusing on solutions as opposed to punishment is a key tool in positive discipline.
8. When It Comes To Effective Punishment, Avoid Smacking
Smacking doesn’t teach children how to behave. It just sends them a message that makes smacking acceptable. As I mentioned earlier, children reproduce their parents behavior, which is what makes hitting in any form wrong on so many levels!
When it comes to disciplining your children, be a leader. Good leaders don’t forcefully control others. When you treat your children like equals through communication, they feel respected, and that respect makes them feel like cooperating. I have first hand experience of forcing my child to do something versus making her feel like she wants to do something. Guess what? The latter always works! Children behaving obediently out of intimidation isn’t because they are learning good behavior, but only out of fear. This type of compliance is unsustainable.