According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of discipline is ‘training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.’ The American Human Association believes that child discipline which is considered the number one role of parents, should be ‘designed to help children engage better with others and to modify or control their behaviors in their own best interests.’
Obviously, there are a plethora of books and modalities of child discipline all boasting to be the best method to child rearing. There is so much information, that it can be confusing to find a method which works best for your child. What parents need to realize is that NOT all discipline is created equal, and that whatever you choose and whatever belief you have about discipline for your child it needs to be delivered in a positive, loved based way. As a society, we have evolved some distance from dated methods of corporal punishment and belt beatings as a way to deal with our children. And according to statistics on childhood behavior, our softer hands and more lenient focuses are making parenting well-behaved children even more difficult. The key is finding balance in finding positive discipline for children that works for your kids and for your personal ideals of parenting.
The following bulleted list is designed to help you engage in positive discipline for your children.’
That said, as you read this list remember that YOU know your child best and some things will just not work for every child. One of your best amenities when it comes to your ability to parent well is your intuition and your love for your child.
- Take a moment to ‘understand’ what your child is saying by their behavior. If your child is acting defiant, or if they are suddenly having temper tantrums or locking themselves in their room try to listen to what they are not saying. In other words, rather than simply punish the behavior try to be compassionate and see if you can figure out a reason for the behavior. Most often, a child’s behavior is affected by their emotional needs that are not being met. This is especially true for younger children. Sometimes, meeting the need and then helping them identify better ways to communicate is the most positive discipline technique that a parent can teach.
- Be a role model! According to author Katharine Kersey who authored the book, ‘the 101s: A guide to Positive Discipline,’ parents need to model the behavior they want to see from their kids. Many sources seem to agree that anger and frustration with a child such as yelling, finger pointing, getting loud and aggressive only lead to more negative behavior in kids. Sometimes this means learning to walk away from your child for 10 or 15 minutes so that you can take a breath and re-center in order to be a good role model. If your child is angry and in need of discipline fueling the fire with more anger only makes things worse.
- Be consistent! Yes, it is hard to be consistent as a parent. Eventually you tire of telling the kids seventy five times in one day that they cannot do this or that! You expect your child to listen to the first time. But you have to be consistent. Kids require consistency, no matter how tired you and this is the number one way to embark on positive discipline. For one thing, by being consistent you set limits and boundaries and rules that your child can understand.
- Right along with consistent comes consequences. Their behavior has to have a consequence and the consequence has to be consistent. Avoid threatening to do things such as take away toys, and then not do it. If your child knows, they are not supposed to do something and they continue to do it follow through with your discipline and be consistent. Eventually, your child will learn from this training that you mean what you say, and you say what you mean and they will correct the behavior.
- Use lots of praise! Many methods of positive parenting can go a little overboard in the praise department. The reality is your child will not be praised in life for every stinking thing they do. However, if they are learning to correct a behavior it is important that you make sure to praise them for their efforts to show them that you noticed. Plus, by paying attention to the attention you like to see as opposed to the negative behavior you teach your child a better way to get your attention. Remember, kids do not realize the difference between negative attention and positive attention when they are young. All they know is that drawing on the walls was enough to get you off your laptop long enough to pay attention to them.
- don’t use pay offs. Okay, as parents there comes moments in life when you are so sick and tired of being a nag and you just need your kids to act right for five stinking minutes that you say, ‘If you are good while I am on this conference call I will give you a cookie!’ But as a rule, children shouldn’t expect compensation for following through on their responsibilities. By constantly offering rewards to get a child to do what they are ‘supposed’ to do, you are setting yourself up for trouble.
- don’t fall for guilt trips! Being a parent, especially one that works or is trying to balance the needs of several kids at once, means that you likely feel a good bit of guilt! Ignore it! don’t allow guilt to be play a role in your parenting and most importantly, realize that you are doing the best you can with the resources you have.
In the end, it comes down to this. Positive discipline for children starts with keeping the best long term interests of your child at hand.