Raising children is the most difficult and demanding task men and women undertake together. Before kids come along, two people can live for themselves, devote their time solely to one another, and luxuriate in that wonderful thing called “free time.” But once children are part of the picture, everything changes, and parents must navigate the sometimes tricky parenting path, teaching good behaviours and discouraging bad ones.Sometimes, that teaching must involve disciplining your child.How should you do it effectively, without causing physical or emotional harm but correcting the bad behaviour, so it doesn’t repeat itself or, even worse, become chronic?It isn’t always easy; that’s for sure – children have an instinctive knowledge of how to “push their parents’ buttons.” But there are several strategies you can employ that ensure the best possible outcome – stopping bad behaviour – and that doesn’t make you feel guilty that you’ve hurt your child somehow, emotionally speaking.The next time your child starts acting out, or acting poorly, or otherwise exhibiting bad behaviour, consider these suggestions for dealing with it.
1- Before The Bad Behaviour Even Begins…
Before you’re put in the position of having to discipline your child, consider this: don’t just talk about good behaviour, model it!In other words, as the old saying goes, “do as you do.” If you want your child to have good table manners, for example, be sure you have them yourself.Chances are if your son or daughter sees you putting your napkin in your lap from a very young age, they will eventually start doing it too. And if you are not slurping drinks, chances are they won’t begin doing it.Children are mirrors of adult behaviour, and we can usually tell a lot about the parent by watching how the child behaves. After all, they learn their lessons about this at their parents’ knee, so if you want them to act in a certain way, you must act that way yourself 🙂
2- Explain The Consequences of Bad Behaviour
Once your child is old enough to understand the basic principles of right and wrong, they are old enough to understand the fundamental logic of consequences and the concept of empathy.For example, let’s say that your older child keeps taking a toy away from a younger child, and they end up in tears and a shouting match.Explain to your older child why it upsets his sibling and how, if the situations were reversed, they would be upset, too. Some disagreements between siblings are completely natural, so don’t make the consequences extreme. But don’t ignore it either, and think, “kids fight, it’s no big deal.”This is one of those situations that affords you the opportunity of teaching your children about the importance of considering other people’s feelings.
3- Don’t Overreact
If your child knocks over a vase that was very dear to you, don’t imbue the incident with too much gravity. It was likely an accident, and everyone has those, right? Making the child feel awful about a genuine accident is no way to teach them life skills, and shouting will only make them – and you — feel worse.Keep the incident in perspective. Explain why you are upset, but don’t let the situation drag on all day or send them to their room for a minor mishap.
4- Praise More Often Than You Criticize…
Constantly making your child feel like they are not good enough or refined enough, or independent enough is sure to contribute to anxiety and insecurity.It’s vital that you praise your child’s good behaviour as much as you correct and criticize their bad behaviour.Keeping the focus on what your child does well fosters happiness and security. It also means that when you do correct or criticize, they are far more likely to pay attention to what you’re saying and accept whatever discipline you mete out.
5- Use “time outs” Judiciously
Please don’t send your child to their room every time they do something irritating or upsetting; all that does is demonstrate you are out of patience and unable to deal with the child’s tantrum or bad behaviour.Most experts agree that time-outs should be saved for those moments when a situation is escalating, and you, the parent, need a few minutes to compose yourself and arrive at a suitable punishment for whatever your child has done.Being apart from each other allows tempers to cool, yours and your child’s, and fosters clear communication about the problem when you’re back together.
Explain how and why their behaviour was wrong and why you are disciplining them. Don’t assume that your child automatically understands why something is wrong simply because they see you are upset.Telegraphing it with visible anger is not enough – you must clearly and, as calmly as possible, explain why their actions were unacceptable. This ties into the previous point about explaining the consequences.If it’s not the first time the child has acted improperly – let’s say your son pulled a neighbour’s ponytail and she started crying – be sure to remind him of why hurting others is so serious. And if the behaviour does repeat itself, the discipline should become more severe with each infraction.The first time, perhaps ban screen time for two hours. For each incident after that, discipline should be more pronounced – perhaps a whole evening with no screens.Any discipline involving loss of screen time certainly gets children’s attention these days. (At what age to allow them access to screens at all is perhaps a topic for another column!)
7- Listen to Your Child’s Explanation for Behaving as They Did
If something happens at school, for example, or in a social setting where other adults were supervising, do not just take the word of other people that your child was at fault for something.Ask your child to explain what happened, and listen closely to their explanation of why, from their perspective, the unfortunate event occurred.Base your discipline on their response, not the beliefs of other people; there may have been subtle forces at play that caused your child to, for example, lash out at another child.Were they being bullied or made fun of? Always get an explanation from your child, and proceed from there.
8- The Experts Have Spoken: Never Spank!
No matter how angry you become or how poorly your child behaves, never, ever strike them, not even a swat on their bottom.Researchers and child psychologists have been studying the effects of spanking for years, and they’ve concluded that parents who spank – even once – have failed their children.It demonstrates that you’ve lost your words and your wits and resorted to something you would never do to an adult, no matter how angry you become.That means you’ve spanked your child because you have the advantage of size – what does that say? Remember, long after you’ve put the incident behind you (or tried to), your child will experience lingering, deleterious emotional effects.And angry adults often don’t know how strong they are, so spanking a child can cause serious and lasting harm physically.
Last but not least
These tips can be resoundingly effective if you employ them regularly, follow through with boundaries and ground rules, and don’t keep moving the “line in the sand” because you’re too tired to deal with bad behaviour at the moment.Children actually want their parents to discipline them because it demonstrates love, commitment to their well-being and involvement in their lives.They aren’t born knowing right and wrong; it’s your job to teach them by modelling good behaviour, setting limits and remembering that there is a big difference between severe punishment and consistent, constructive discipline.Correcting bad behaviour must never cause harm to the child’s emotional well being, and as the parent, it’s your job, your duty, to always preserve their well-being.The world is punishing enough once they are out in it! As the parent, everything you do must come from love, be focused on their self-esteem, and reward good conduct rather than focusing too intently on the bad.Approach disciplining your child with kindness, love and humour, and you will be rewarded with a well balanced, happy and good-natured child, one who doesn’t get into too much trouble as they grow and thrive 🙂