When I look back at my parenting days when the kids were young, I honestly can’t remember many times when I had to discipline them. They will say I was strict — more strict than their friends’ parents — so you’d think I was heavy-handed with discipline, right? Maybe I’ve just gotten old and have forgotten why or when I had to discipline my kids.
One thing I do remember clearly was them fighting over sand at the beach — throwing sand in each other’s faces and knocking down sandcastles. How did I handle them fighting? Mostly with time-outs. What didn’t work at the beach was to make them pack up and return to the house. I tried that and discovered that I liked being at the beach and I was the one who lost out! They were perfectly happy to be back in the house in front of the T.V.
In the Santa Maria Times there is a great article by Claire McCarthy, M.D. Harvard Health Blog, called Discipline of children: How to avoid long-term negative effects.
The article talks about the negative consequences of yelling or spanking your kids. Dr. McCarthy said studies show it doesn’t work and may cause aggressive behavior, mental health issues and substance abuse. It also hurts the relationship between the parent and child. In addition to discussing negative consequences of aversive parenting, she gives tips for positive discipline techniques. I highly recommend reading the entire article. Following are Dr. McCarthy’s tips for disciplining your children:
An alternative approach to discipline is in a loving, proactive way. Teach the rules ahead of time rather than waiting for your child to break them and reacting then — and be as positive and empowering as you can. Here are some tips:
- Have realistic expectations. Babies are going to cry, toddlers are going to get into things they shouldn’t, school-age kids sometimes lie to avoid trouble, and teenagers — well, they do all sorts of things as they assert their independence. Not that you have to ignore or condone these behaviors (well, you might have to just deal with a baby crying; that’s not misbehaving), but it’s important to understand the stage your child is going through as you discipline. At each checkup with your pediatrician, talk about what to expect next in your child’s development.
- Set clear limits. No should mean no, and there should be house and family rules for kind, safe behavior. Each family will have slightly different rules, but they should be clearly stated and known to everyone. Not only that, but when it comes to rules you need to:
- Be consistent. If something isn’t allowed, it’s not allowed. If you give in sometimes out of sheer exhaustion or because you weren’t super-committed to that rule, kids will pick up on that immediately. Which means that you need to choose your rules carefully (meaning: Pick your battles).
- Have predictable and clear consequences for breaking rules. Giving kids a heads-up is helpful (“I am going to count to three, and I need that to stop, or we will have a consequence”). The consequence should be something they don’t like — sending them to their room where they play with toys may not do the trick. “Timeout” is one option, where you put the child in a boring place for a minute for each year of age and don’t interact with them. You can also take toys or privileges away.
- Reinforce good behavior. Say things like, “I love it when you … ” or “That was so nice that you did that!” or “Because you behaved so well today, let’s read an extra story tonight.” Children like praise and may be more likely to behave well when they see that it’s worth their while.
- Be mindful of your own needs and reactions. Parenthood is hard. Sometimes parents need a timeout themselves. If you feel yourself getting really upset, make sure your child is somewhere safe, and then take some time to calm down.
What methods of discipline do you use for your kids and how well does it work?