I have been blessed with three very unique little girls, each content to march to their own beat. While parenting them has been a joy, disciplining them has been a challenge. No one technique has worked for me with each of my girls-just as they like different foods and want to choose their own clothes, I’ve had to discipline them differently. While charts and rewards have worked for one child, another has needed time outs. Though the discipline I’ve doled out has had to be different for each child, I have found that there are several strategies that work no matter which child I’m dealing with.
Keep your cool.
Whether I’m dealing with a tantrumming toddler or a whining, six year old, maintaining my cool has been essential for effective discipline. It isn’t always easy, and there have been times when I’ve lost my temper, too. However, the most effective discipline has occurred when I’m in control of what I say and how I say it. Not only do my children respond better when I’m calm and collected, but the entire situation stays manageable and I end up feeling better about things, too.
Address the behavior.
What has prompted the misbehavior? Be conscious to address that behavior, instead of the child. My oldest daughters are sensitive, and respond better to discipline when I make it clear that I am upset that they threw their entire wardrobe on the floor or that they slammed the door. Effective discipline will address a behavior that is occurring or that you want to change, but still let a child know that they, as a person, are loved.
Don’t explain too much.
I have found that it’s a good idea to be clear with my children about why they are being disciplined. However, less is often more, especially with young children. I’ve had success with statements like: “You are having a time out because you kicked your sister. That could hurt her. We need to keep our hands and feet to ourselves.” I’ve addressed the punishment at hand, the behavior which prompted it, and the rule to work on. While I do need to get to the heart of why she kicked her sister, that’s usually best left until after the punishment (if there is one) is over and the emotions have cooled down.
One of the most effective discipline tactics I’ve implemented over the years is to be proactive. How I react to bad behavior is important, but recognizing situations where bad behavior may occur and cutting them off at the pass is part of my job as a parent, too. I know that when my oldest daughter is overtired, she’s more likely to whine and fight with her sister. So, we work to keep her to a predictable schedule in order to avoid these instances. Recognizing the areas where you can help your child and eliminate discipline issues can go a long way. You won’t always be able to predict misbehavior, but when you can, you can work at preventing it or preparing for the consequences.
It’s sometimes easy to get frustrated with your child and I’ve sometimes had to remind myself that I need to let it go and move on. Hugs for young children after disciplining go a long way in my family-they remind both my child and I that no matter how mad we get or what trouble we get in to, we’re always a family and we always love each other. Once discipline is over, let it go and move on. Don’t hold a grudge!
Read more by this author:
Teach Children to Fight Fair
Curb Aggressive Behavior in Your Preschooler
The Importance of Quality Time in Raising Happy, Well-Adjusted Children