Forget yelling and nagging. Focus on positive discipline to bring out the best in your kids and create a more harmonious household.
Your child’s self-esteem is greatly influenced by the quality of time you spend with him-not the amount of time that you spend. With our busy lives, we are often thinking about the next thing that we have to do, instead of putting 100% focus 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.
Never tell a child that he is bad. That tears at his self-esteem. Help your child recognize that it isn’t that you don’t like him, but it is his behaviour 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?
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 either get dressed either in the car or at school. Make sure that you love when you pick her up, yet firm by picking her up as soon as the timer goes off without any more nagging. If in doubt, ask yourself, did I motivate through love or fear?
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 who feel 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 in the way we parent. For example, if we spank our child, he will learn to use acts of aggression to get what he wants when he grows up.
If you have made an agreement that your child cannot buy candy when she gets to the store, do not give in to her pleas, tears, demands or pouting. Your child will learn to respect you more if you mean what you say.
A Better Way
Positive discipline, based on love and limits, is common sense. It’s often the simple, sensible choices we tend to overlook as options, especially when we’re in the heat of a kid battle. Unlike punishment, positive discipline works to maintain the dignity of both child and parent by helping the child want to cooperate because he knows it’s the right thing to do, not because he feels he has to comply “or else.” It has three main objectives:
• To put a stop to misbehaviour (such as whining, lying, hitting, tantrums).
• To encourage good behaviours (i.e., cleaning up, healthy eating, using manners).
• To strengthen the relationship between parent and child.
The starting place for positive discipline is with you. It involves modelling good behaviour – the kind you’d like from your child. As you have already discovered, children will do as you do, not necessarily as you say. To review the kind of behaviour you expect, schedule private discussions and family meetings to revisit a situation without blame, shame, fear, or guilt. When the child has input into solving the problem, he is more inclined to want to cooperate as planned when a similar situation arises. The process helps him feel important. But keep in mind that you have full veto power. Over time, a well-disciplined child learns to control his impulses, take responsibility, solve problems, and empathize with others.
In truth, changing your ways and your children’s isn’t easy, and it can be especially difficult to hold it together on crazy mornings. But even if you find that what comes out of your mouth is not what you had practiced, don’t worry. Your child will give you another chance – sooner than you think – to say it better.
7 Great Ways to Get Your Kids to Cooperate
• Acknowledge strong feelings.
A child who feels understood sees you as on his side rather than on his back and is more likely to cooperate. Say, “I noticed how angry you get when you’re having fun and have to leave your friend’s house. Let’s practice a happy goodbye for tomorrow. How would that look and sound?”
• Talk less.
Say what needs to be done in a single word if you can. “Coat.” “Breakfast.” “Teeth.” Children hate long explanations, which often turn into a screaming tirade of reasons it must be done. You’re also modelling self-control.
• Tell your child what he can do,
rather than what he cannot do. For example, “We pet the cat” works better than, “Don’t pull the cat’s tail like you did last week.” This serves as a reminder of an acceptable action rather than of what your child did wrong.
• Give limited choices.
Say to your child, “You can get in your car seat all by yourself or Mommy will help you do it. Do you need my help? It’s your choice.” Most toddlers will say, “Self, self . . . I do it.” The more you do this, the more you’ll get “self” cooperation.
• Lighten up.
Make inanimate objects do the talking for you. If you want your child to put on his shoes, for instance, make the shoes say, “Please put your feet in my tummy.” Toddlers will usually happily comply, at least once.
This announcement means that your child will “take back” her words and actions and start anew with good behaviour. Silly babble and walking backwards indicate the bad behaviour has been “erased.” In order for this to be effective, it must be introduced, demonstrated, and talked about repeatedly, outside the heat of the moment.
• Take a break.
To calm a frustrated child, stop and breathe together. Say, “Looks like you need a break; let’s breathe together.” Sitting across from each other, holding hands, inhale slowly and deeply three times. Say, “I’m feeling relaxed now.