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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, act­ing poor­ly, or oth­er­wise exhibit­ing bad behav­iour, con­sid­er these sug­ges­tions for deal­ing with it.

1- Before 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’ knees, 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 allows you to teach your chil­dren about the impor­tance of con­sid­er­ing oth­er peo­ple’s feelings.

3- Don’t Overreact

How do you discipline a child without hitting and yelling l discipline for kids l how to discipline kids l tips for kids discipline l how to discipline your kids 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, refined enough, or inde­pen­dent enough con­tributes 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 tantrums or bad behaviour. Most experts agree that time-outs should be saved when a sit­u­a­tion esca­lates, 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.

6- Explain…

How do you discipline a child without hitting and yelling l discipline for kids l how to discipline kids l tips for kids discipline l how to discipline your kids 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 with­out screens. Any dis­ci­pline involv­ing the 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 a 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 🙂

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