Ten Keys That Help Parents to Successfully Discipline
Disciplining children can be one of the greatest challenges parents encounter. Appropriate methods of discipline, however, can teach responsibility, build self-esteem, motivate children, make children feel loved, and keep them from turning to gangs, drugs, or sex to feel powerful or a sense of belonging.
The following ten keys will help parents use methods that have been proven to provide children with a sense of well-being and security.
- Use Genuine Encounter Moments (GEMs) – Your child’s self-esteem is greatly influenced by the quality of time you spend with him, not the amount of time. With busy lives, we are often thinking about the next thing that we have to do, instead of putting 100% focused attention on what our child is saying to us. We often pretend to listen or ignore our child’s attempts to communicate with us. If we don’t give our child GEMs throughout the day, he will often start to misbehave. Negative attention in a child’s mind is better than being ignored.
It is also important to recognize that feelings are neither right nor wrong. They just are. So when your child says, “Mommy, you never spend time with me,” (even though you just played with her) she is expressing what she feels. It is best at these times to just validate her feelings by saying, “I bet it does feel like a long time since we spent time together.”
- Use Action, Not Words – Statistics say that we give our children over 2000 compliance requests a day! No wonder our children become “parent deaf.” Instead of nagging or yelling, ask yourself, “What action could I take?” For example, if you have told your child to unroll his socks when he takes them off, then only wash socks that are unrolled. Actions speak louder than words.
- Give Children Appropriate Ways to Feel Powerful – If you don’t, they will find inappropriate ways to feel their power. Ways to help them feel powerful and valuable are to ask their advice, give them choices, let them help you balance your cheque book, cook all or part of a meal, or help you shop. A two-year-old can wash plastic dishes, wash vegetables, or put silverware away. Often we do the job for them because we can do it with less hassle, but the result is that they feel unimportant.
- Use Natural Consequences – Ask yourself what would happen if I didn’t interfere in this situation? If we interfere when we don’t need to, we rob children of the chance to learn from the consequences of their actions. By allowing consequences to do the talking, we avoid disturbing our relationships by nagging or reminding too much. For example, if your child forgets her lunch, the natural consequence is that she will be hungry, and she will remember her lunch if she doesn’t want that to happen again.
- Use Logical Consequences – Consequences are most effective when they are logically related to the behaviour and timely. For example, if your child forgets to return his video and you ground him for a week, that punishment will only create resentment within your child. However, if you return the video for him and either deduct the amount from his allowance or allow him to work off the money owed, then your child can see the logic to your discipline.
- Withdraw from Conflict – If your child is testing you through a temper tantrum, or being angry or speaking disrespectfully to you, it is best to leave the room and tell the child you will be in the next room if he wants to “try again.” Do not leave in anger or defeat.
- Separate the Deed from the Doer – Telling a child that he “is bad” tears at his self-esteem. Help your child recognize that it isn’t that you don’t like him, but it is his behavior that you are unwilling to tolerate. In order for a child to have healthy self-esteem, he must know that he is loved unconditionally no matter what he does. Do not motivate your child by withdrawing your love from him. When in doubt, ask yourself, did my discipline build my child’s self esteem and thereby his character?
- Be Kind and Firm at the Same Time – Suppose you have told your five-year-old child that if she isn’t dressed by the time the timer goes off, you will pick her up and take her to the car. She has been told she can get dressed either in the car or at school. Make sure that you are loving when you pick her up; yet firm by picking her up as soon as the timer goes off without any more discussion. If in doubt, ask yourself, did I motivate through love or fear?
- Parent with the End in Mind – Most of us parent with the mindset to get the situation under control as soon as possible. We are looking for the expedient solution. This often results in children feeling overpowered. But if we parent in a way that keeps in mind how we want our child to be as an adult, we will be more thoughtful n the way we parent. For example, if we spank our child, he will learn to use acts of aggression or intimidation to get what he wants when he grows up.
- Be Consistent, Follow Through – If you have made an agreement that your child cannot buy candy when she gets to the store, don’t give into her pleas, tears, demands or pouting. Your child will learn to respect you more if you mean what you say.
Hesham Aly is an Intensive Family Support Worker in the Partners Program, a joint initiative of Carizon and Lutherwood.