Discipline means to teach
Boundaries and discipline allow your children to feel secure and happy!
One day, parents wake up and realize that their precious 10 month old actually knows that the TV or dog food dish is off-limits, but reaches to push the buttons on the TV or take a sample of dog food anyway. Their cute little eyes look at you, and they reach their sweet little hand out just waiting for you to respond. How did this happen? Does your child really KNOW what he or she is doing? When is discipline necessary? What is the right discipline approach?
Discipline questions are some of the most common questions I receive when I am speaking at parenting groups. Parents know it is a necessity, a real part of parenthood, but often question the how to and when to of the process. First and foremost…there is one purpose of discipline…
Discipline comes from the word disciple, which means, “to teach”.
Children need rules. Rules makes them feel secure and loved, and helps them to understand boundaries. Parents need to set rules that are simple, easy to understand, and consistent. The toddler phase is one of the most important formative stages of a child. You might think a behavior is funny at age 2 but it won’t be at age 5—and all this is simply magnified when they hit the teenage years.
Remember, you are the parent! You are your child’s guide to making good choices. Setting limits helps with self-discipline and development of self-confidence so your child will eventually make choices in life that are good. Children want and need limits!! Children will often push until a consistent limit is set. Boundaries and discipline give your child security resulting in increased happiness.
There are 3 pieces to an effective discipline plan.
- A positive, supportive and loving relationship between a child and parent.
- The use of positive reinforcement when a child demonstrates behaviors that are appropriate and desired.
- The removal of all reinforcement of undesired behaviors. This means the removal of all attention.
2. Be patient and consistent.
Patience is key. Often parents will complain that they have tried a discipline strategy and it didn’t work. Timeout was tried over and over again…but the behavior continued. It takes a period of time for a child to learn and gain control of a behavior. A child usually tests you to see if the consequence remains the same every time the behavior is exhibited. Some children also have strong-willed temperaments that challenge discipline a bit more. Patience and consistency with the discipline system is crucial!
3. Validate your child’s feelings.
When it comes to discipline, parents need to be warm but firm. Describe your child’s feelings. Children that don’t have the words to express themselves often act out. Saying things like, “I know you are frustrated, but we don’t hit.” “I know you are angry with Mommy.” “I know you are sad.” Giving your child the words that describe how he feels will eventually help your child use words instead of acting out. This will also help your child begin to learn empathy…knowing how others feel because they have experienced it.
As your child gets older, parents will need to listen and respond. It is fine to give your older child a chance to explain, but there should be no engagement in argument. Most of the time you will not convince your child that you are right. Think about it, will your 2-year-old finally understand why he can’t have a cookie before dinner and say, “You are right Mommy, I shouldn’t eat a cookie now before dinner!” Or down the road, I promise your teen will not tell you that he understands why you won’t let him go to a particular party that all his friends may be attending but you feel is not a good choice! Parents can listen but not argue, just simply say, “I know you don’t understand now, but this is my decision.” No further argument is necessary.
5. Model good behavior.
When you are teaching manners, or socially appropriate behavior, most children learn best by modeling. It is like learning language, children learn by repeating what they see and hear. When children see good behavior repeated over and over in the home, eventually they will incorporate that behavior. So, practice what you preach, you have little eyes and hears tuned in all the time!
6. Offer your child choices.
Many times you can head off a conflict with choices. Giving choices to a child often increases cooperation. When a child feels more control, they often will not act out as much. Parents can offer choices between two outfits, or choices between two vegetables or fruits, or even choices in non-negotiable things like brushing teeth, “I know you don’t like to brush your teeth, but it is important, so would you like to brush your teeth before you put your P.J.s on or after? ” Giving children a sense of some control will decrease tantrums and increase good behavior.
7. Know when to walk away.
Temper tantrums are a child’s way of blowing off steam and communicating their frustration. They are a part of almost every child’s normal growth and development during the toddler years. Some children have more than others. If you respond to them, then you validate that behavior. Because the child learns that if he has a tantrum, then he’ll get mom and dad’s attention or what he wants. But if you ignore them, you will see them gradually subside. Don’t engage if you feel like your child is pushing your buttons. If you feel frustrated, walk away until you can respond calmly. This certainly won’t reinforce the behavior and teaches them appropriate behaviors to model.
This is a start to the discipline conversation. Talk with everyone who cares for your child so you all are on the same page when it comes to your discipline approach. Consistency is the key…and remember give attention only to those behaviors you would like to see repeated!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.