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Posts Tagged ‘Positive discipline’

Positive Solutions for Discipline

Guest Post
by Patricia Zauflik, M.Ed

Knowing your child’s abilities and limitations is extremely important. Expecting too much or too little can be frustrating for you and your child, so try to keep your expectations realistic! Use logical consequences when disciplining your children. Logical consequences are an alternative to punishment, and they need to be practical and consistently enforced. These consequences help children learn how they are expected to behave. For example, you might remove an item a child throws at a sibling, or if two siblings are fighting, you could send them to separate rooms to play. The children lose the privilege of playing with an item or with each other!

Try to plan ahead and anticipate what your children may do or need in various situations. Plan to set your children up for a successful experience. Hope for the best, but always have a backup plan. Boy

Most children are not born with a built-in ability to make decisions and accept the consequences. Learning to take responsibility for their actions requires lots of support and practice. A good way to help your children develop these skills is to offer limited, reasonable choices throughout the day, such as when your children are dressing, having a bath, eating snacks, watching TV, cleaning up and getting ready for bedtime. For example, you could ask, “Do you want to wear the red shirt or blue shirt to school tomorrow?” or “Do you want one minute or two minutes to finish playing before getting ready for your bath?”

Another strategy is to use first-then statements. A first-then statement tells your children what they need to do before doing something that they want to do. For example, you might say, “First put on your shoes, and then you can go outside,” or “First clean up your toys, and then you can have a snack.”

Redirection can also provide guidance to children and prevent them from misbehaving. By interrupting a challenging behavior and physically or verbally redirecting your child to another activity, you can engage your child in a more appropriate practice. For example, if your child is playing in the sink and splashing water all over the bathroom, you may choose to gently move the child away from the sink and toward the toys in your child’s room, or you could verbally distract the child and provide an alternate activity. For example, you might say, “Let’s go upstairs and read one of your new library books.”

Remember to give your child specific, positive attention for the behaviors you want to see and teach your child what to do!

Ask the Expert: When Should Parents Start ‘Teaching’ Discipline?

A recent ‘Ask the Expert’ question to The Goddard School Blog reads, ‘Everyone at our house knows that ‘discipline by distraction’ works well for very young children. At what point should we start  actively teaching boundaries and appropriate behavior? Is 20 months too late to start the process? At what age can that kind of gentle discipline start to become effective?’

All children–and parents–are unique, so I have no clue what age would be best for any particular child-parent pair to start a system of discipline. All I can discuss are ranges when developmental agendas are unfolding and try to give you some heads-ups.

Between 18-36 months, so much happens developmentally that it’s easy to lose sight of the objective. The long-term goal here is cultivating self-control in the child, not parental control of the child. Through your words and your own behavior during this period, you are teaching the basics of judgment and control that will work not only when you are present, but hopefully when you are not, as in those teen years.

Before shame and guilt show up, discipline by distraction is your best hope.  Shame and guilt are critical partners in disciplining children and they develop late in the second year for most kids.  Shame arises when a toddler gets an unexpected, negative reaction to something he/she has done from someone he/she loves. He/she feels instantly deflated and may or may not blush, but he/she clearly registers a negative physical reaction to this interaction. This reaction doesn’t exist earlier because the brain has only just now developed the complex connections between words, behavior and emotions.

What you do next will help the child learn over time that his negative behavior violates your important standards for his well-being, and that there are ways to avoid guilt, which is the primary consequence of shame and hurts just as much. Therefore, once that shame reaction starts, it’s worth adding a firm but simple “No, we don’t jump on the coffee table.” The toddler’s increasing memory skills are sometimes  helping him to remember that even when the coffee table leap looks like fun, the grown-ups don’t like that behavior.

Your consistent, firm,  low-key and brief repetition of the same words and actions in response to his dangerous or uncooperative behavior enable your child to begin to feel emotional distress (shame and guilt) when he breaks those rules. His desire to please you is something to rely on, but not to manipulate. After about18 months of this kind of interaction, your child will show the beginning of a sense of right and wrong. Voila! A conscience starts to emerge just in the nick of time (about pre-K).

Our kids aren’t the only ones feeling shame and guilt. How we manage those emotions in ourselves is related to our own personal character and temperament. Periodically reassess the fit between you and your child’s temperamental styles enough to stay in sync so that you don’t feel you are ‘constantly battling.’ Laid-back kids are often confused by feisty caretakers, just as shy parents are flustered by feisty kids. One solution is to do more tag-teaming with the parent or grandparent that seems to be less ‘undone’ by the challenging behavior during this stage. Now you know why there are quotes around ‘teaching’ in the title.  Remember, it DOES get better.

Additional guidance is from Chapter 8 of Dr. Pruett’s Me, Myself and I: How Children Build Their Sense of Self: 18-36 Months, Goddard Press.

From the Mouths of Babes: Unacceptable Language

The first time your preschooler blurted out “bad words” or other unacceptable language you were probably pretty surprised—and may have even laughed out loud. We may wonder: what happened to our eager-to-please, angelic sweethearts? As our little ones grow bigger, their curiosity to test and push boundaries grows bigger, too. As parents, we know that rude language and other maddening behavior will quickly lose its charm and humor. Instances like this provide the perfect time to lay the foundation for better behavior. Here are a few simple steps to curb the rudeness.

Establish the rules. Let your child know that “bad words” or rude behavior are unacceptable and will not be used again—and that they will have consequences if they are.

Pre-determine the consequence. Decide in advance on a consequence that you will use if this rude behavior should happen again. Choose something that has a fairly immediate effect such as, “No more playing outside right now,” or “Snack time is over,” as opposed to something you would be more likely to rescind such as, “You are not going to Grammy’s house next week.”

React with confidence. Next time your child speaks impolitely, respond with certainty. Calmly, but firmly, say, “We do not use that sort of language. For that reason, you will not be riding your bike this afternoon.”

Follow through. Do not negotiate or justify the consequences of rude behavior. It is important to set consistent limits by following through with your decision. If you cave in or offer multiple chances, your child may believe that what is acceptable and what is not is up for discussion.

Reward the good stuff. Recognize when your child uses “nice” language. Provide lots of praise, love, affection and positive feedback when they behave well.

Positive Alternatives to “No”

Children should begin to learn to respect limits from a young age. Most boundaries for children are set for health and safety reasons and are a very important and necessary developmental tool. Children are corrected every day, which can lead them to simply “tune out” any perceived negativity or become uncooperative. Regardless of their age, most people respond better to positively communicated direction. This is especially true for children. For example, “Grandma is worried about us getting stains on her couch. Let’s enjoy our snack in her kitchen instead,” will generate more cooperation than “No food or drinks in Grandma’s living room.”

Try telling your child what they can do instead of what they can’t. Practice the positive alternatives below to avoid overusing the word “no” while maintaining reasonable limits.

  • “Maybe later” can work to delay a request such as snacks or sweets before mealtime.
  • “Not today” communicates that the timing is wrong but leaves the possibility open.
  • “When we’ve done (this), then we can do (that).” This method is good for transition times and to help toddlers establish event routines. For example, “When all of your toys are put away, we can go play at the park.”
  • “I’ll think about it” replaces an automatic “no” by allowing yourself the time to think about your determination. Parents tend to make better decisions when they take the time to think about the request and their response.
  • “Sure, did you bring your allowance?” This technique allows you to communicate that they may have the requested item if they can pay for it themselves.
  • “Yes (with qualifier).” This strategy grants conditional permission. For example, “Yes, you may play the game after we eat dinner.”

Setting Limits: Discipline & Action

Teacher & GirlWhen setting limits, there are two key points to remember:

  • The fewer words the better.
  • Actions speak louder than words.

Fewer Words

My own decades of experience in clinical practice shows me that when parents use discipline phrases of more than 20 words, their children do not respond most of the time. If the emotional tone of that discipline is negative and nagging, children are particularly deaf. This is so hard for many parents because we feel we are so right (actually righteous), compared to our children. We want to believe that the more we correct them, the better they will behave. The data shows exactly the opposite.

Effective Actions

Few words only work in the self-control area if you back it up with action. Otherwise, internal shame will turn into the humiliation of being useless. When your child bites someone during a visit, take her home after a simple reprimand, and don’t endlessly berate her in her car seat. The action of losing her playtime speaks louder that anything you might say. Handing a spoon to a child who is mashing food into her mouth at dinner beats a lecture on manners.

Your love and opinion of your children matters deeply to them, especially when they are struggling to develop more self-control. Showing your children that their behavior affects the way you feel, helps children understand that you have feelings, too. Empathy and compassion begin to grow. When children see that their evolving self-control can make their parent feel good, the affirmation adds social and cognitive accomplishment to the achievement of controlling one’s behavior.

What is Positive Discipline?

The Difference between Discipline and Punishment

Mom-daughter2Contrary to popular belief, discipline and punishment are not equal.  Discipline is positive and should prevent the need for punishment.  In fact, the word “discipline” is derived from the Latin “disciplina” which means teaching or education.  Discipline helps to guide children toward positive behavior, promotes self-control, encourages children to think before acting and is not damaging to their self-esteem.  Punishment, on the other hand, is negative – whether physical, verbal, withholding rewards or penalizing.

Positive discipline teaches children rules and behaviors in a respectful, loving and considerate way.  It requires thought, planning and patience from parents and caretakers, such as:

  • “No, don’t run inside!” becomes, “What happened to our walking feet?  Where do we use our running feet?”  or “We will go outside soon and you can show me how fast you can run.”
  • “No, don’t throw the blocks!” becomes, “When did our blocks grow wings?” or “Let’s try building a castle and see what happens!”

Use positive discipline to redirect your child’s behavior, and you validate the legitimacy of your child’s desires and shows you care and understand.  Redirecting endorses your child’s right to choose and begins to teach that others have rights, too.

Children also respond to reasoning – it just needs to be put into their language.

  • ‘Inside feet’ versus ‘outside feet’
  • ‘Soft hands’ versus ‘hard hands’
  • ‘Inside voices’ versus ‘outside voices’

Create a Positive Environment

  • Show the love; smile, touch, hold, caress, kiss, cuddle, rock and hug your child!  This will not only make your child feel secure and happy, but is essential for normal social development.
  • Listen and answer as an equal – not as an instructor.  This will help build your child’s self-esteem and foster respect.
  • Spend time with your child every day.  Make time every day to drop everything and play with your child – even if it’s only for a couple of minutes.  Your child will realize they don’t need to have a temper tantrum to gain your attention.
  • Catch your child doing something good – praise and compliment!  “You’re doing a great job feeding yourself and keeping your food on your plate!”
  • Provide simple rules and state them in positive terms.
  • Demonstrate the behavior you want your child to adopt – actions speak louder than words.