Tag Archives: Discipline
Parenting is a tough and frustrating job. More than anything we want to help our kids grow into healthy, happy adults. Yet when they don’t behave the way we want them to, it’s all too easy to resort to tactics we’re not proud of. Yelling. Threatening. Spanking. We use these discipline techniques even though we feel bad afterward (and, obviously, so do our kids). And we stay stuck in our cycle of negativity because, quite frankly, we don’t know any good alternatives.
There are positive, effective discipline techniques out there—techniques that result in happy, well-rounded, well-behaved children. And best of all, they allow us to avoid the fighting, stress, and general feel-bad techniques we’ve resorted to in the past. There are better ways of teaching children to be cooperative. Fear and aggression are not effective, and they don’t feel good to anyone. The true meaning of the word discipline is ‘to guide’. And guidance means teaching. When we punish our children, we often leave out the guidance, which means we don’t often get the results we are looking for.
The alternative is to employ a technique known as emotion coaching. It’s a gentle, open-hearted alternative to old-fashioned, often aggressive discipline that can be used with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and young school-aged children. Ultimately, emotion coaching gives parents the know-how and the confidence to build strong, productive relationships with their children.
There are a few simple, feel-good strategies parents can employ to make their disciplining more effective. Read on for twelve tips you can use starting when your child is an infant.
-Set limits and expectations all along the way. Parents often make the mistake of thinking that discipline starts once children are older—not babies. But it’s a good idea to begin providing guidance and setting limits as early as infancy. This sets your child up for success—if she knows what the boundaries and expectations are from the beginning, then when she’s two you won’t be trying to undo all her bad habits or behaviors.
-Don’t let your own issues affect your discipline. If you’ve had a bad day at work or are just plain exhausted, it can be much easier to operate on a short fuse and let even the tiniest things push you over the edge. Before you interact with or try to redirect your child, make sure that you aren’t letting your own personal anger or problems affect the way you react toward your child.
-When your blood starts to boil, take a grown-up time-out. Take a grown-up “cool-off” time when you find yourself too angry to deal with your child. Once you feel calm and collected, return to your child to address the situation at hand.
-Keep communicating. The earlier you establish a healthy line of communication with your child, the more effective you will be in communicating discipline or behavioral changes to him. No matter what age your child may be, it’s important to keep communicating your thoughts and feelings with him.
-Discuss your feelings about what you see. When our kids misbehave, we often neglect to tell them how their actions make us feel. But by explaining to your child that it makes mommy sad when she sees her children fighting or not sharing with one another, we help them to begin to understand the effect their behavior has on others, which in turn makes them more likely to react differently the next time.
-Let children know that parents DO understand. Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings while setting limits. Let her know that you aren’t just handing down a punishment and you do realize that she is experiencing emotions, too. When she knows that she is being heard and understood, she is more likely to listen to what you have to say as well.
-Give the child a good behavior to use in place of the bad one. Children can’t learn how we want them to behave unless we replace their bad behavior with the one we want to see or expect. When your child misbehaves, be sure to follow up your “We don’t run inside” with a helpful suggestion for what he can do—like “But we can run and jump and play all we want to outside. Would you like for me to go out and play with you?”
-Redirect your child’s attention. If your little one is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store or having a meltdown over the toy her little brother just stole, then redirect her attention to another activity or train of thought. Have her help you on a “scavenger hunt” to complete your shopping list, or sit down with her in another room to play a game or read a book. Pulling her away from the situation at hand will help you both to calm down and move forward.
-Do what you say you’re going to do every single time. Being a parent takes a lot of patience and sacrifice. And that means following through on discipline even when it’s inconvenient or unpopular. If the consequences you employ as discipline are merely empty threats, your child will know as much and the behavior will never change. If the consequence of continued bad behavior is leaving the fun birthday party, don’t just threaten it—leave the birthday party. It might feel awkward and be inconvenient, but the payoff will be a child who knows you mean business.
-Make encouragement one of your top tools. Discipline doesn’t have to be only about the “don’t do thats” or the “because I said sos” (and it shouldn’t be!). Children love nothing more than to please their parents, and your encouragement is worth its weight in gold. Make sure you offer encouragement when your child follows through on a good behavior. If he knows you can be pleased, he will work hard to make it happen time and again!
-Take some time to talk it out. If your child is over three years old, have her sit with you and think about her actions; then ask her what she can do differently next time. Taking a “thinking time” or “cool-down time” helps her to become an active part of her discipline, so that it feels less like a commandment being handed down and more like a decision and effort she is a part of.
-Brainstorm ideas for better behavior. While it may seem obvious to us how our kids should behave, it’s not always so black and white for the kids themselves. We as parents need to be vigilant about offering solutions and brainstorming ideas with our children—because there will be times when they may not know what to do and will need our guidance. Write down a list of behaviors that are a problem and brainstorm together how they can react differently, so they have solutions to choose from the next time those situations occur.
Children learn good behavior by imitating good behavior. So at the end of the day, the most effective thing a parent can do to ensure that their children learn morals, values, and compassion is to make sure that they see those things in you—especially when it comes to your interactions with them.
Like anything else in parenthood, positive discipline takes a lot of patience, and practice makes perfect. But the reward in the end is worth it. When you start seeing—and feeling—the results, you’ll be glad you took the high road.
For more great parenting tips, check out Kimberley’s book, www.TheGoToMomsGuide.com.
The Go-To Mom discusses the four most common parenting mistakes you don’t want to make on an appearance of ABC’s “View From the Bay.”
For more great parenting tips, check out Kimberley’s book at www.TheGoToMomsGuide.com.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get our kids to do things we need them to do. Incorporating play with your requests can help your child focus and follow through with a task. A child’s imagination is flourishing at this age and continues to become more sophisticated as she get older.
For more great parenting tips, check out Kimberley’s book, www.TheGoToMomsGuide.com.
Discipline means to guide, and boy does baby need to be guided. Loving, gentle guidance is baby’s first lesson with you. Let her know what she can and can’t have.
For more great parenting tips check out Kimberley’s book, www.TheGoToMomsGuide.com.
Your little child could take off and run in the street at any given moment. Toddlers’ spur of the moment behavior could be quite dangerous. Now that you know that, it’s time to instill a safety plan when you’re out and about. Let your toddler know the rules. Tell him he needs to stay with you at all times and hold your hand until you get to your destination. If he lets go, let him know you will hold him until you’re there. Give him a choice – Mama can hold you or you can hold my hand. Giving choices empowers children. Let your toddler know that if she runs off too far, you’ll have to leave your play date. Most parents stay very close to their toddlers, but it’s so common that a toddler could take off in a split second without even the most diligent mom knowing. If this happens, gather your toddler, sit with her and talk to her at eye level. Let her know that you know it’s so fun to run around, but she can’t run away. If she runs away again, the natural consequence is you need to leave the park and go to a more contained area. Letting your children know you understand their desires is key. They’ll be less resistant. However, setting limits early is always a good precedent.
For more great parenting tips, check out Kimberley’s book, www.TheGoToMomsGuide.com.
by Thomas Gordon, Ph.D.
When one person tries to control another, you can always expect some kind of reaction from the controllee. The use of power involves two people in a special kind of relationship – one wielding power, and the other reacting to it.
This seemingly obvious fact is not usually dealt with in the writings of the dare-to-discipline advocates. Invariably, they leave the child out of the formula, omitting any reference to how the youngster reacts to the control of his or her parents or teachers.
They insist, “Parents must set limits,” but seldom say anything about how children respond to having their needs denied in this way. “Parents should not be afraid to exercise their authority,” they counsel, but rarely mention how youngsters react to authority-based coercion. By omitting the child from the interaction, the discipline advocates leave the impression that the child submits willingly and consistently to adults’ power and does precisely what is demanded.
These are actual quotes from the many power-to-the-parent books I’ve collected along the way:
- -”Be firm but fair.”
- -”Insist that your children obey.”
- -”Don’t be afraid to express disapproval by spanking.”
- -”There are times when you have to say ‘no’.”
- -”Discipline with love.”
- -”Demonstrate your parental right to lead.”
- -”The toddler should be taught to obey and yield to parental leadership.”
What these books have in common is advocacy of the use of power-based discipline with no mention of how children react to it. In other words, the dare-to-discipline advocates never present power-based discipline in full, as a cause-and-effect phenomenon, an action-and-reaction event.
This omission is important, for it implies that all children passively submit to adult demands, perfectly content and secure in an obedient role, first in relationships with their parents and teachers and, eventually, with all adult power-wielders they might encounter.
However, I have found not a shred of evidence to support this view. In fact, as most of us remember only too well from our childhood, we did almost anything we could to defend against power-based control. We tried to avoid it, postpone it, weaken it, avert it, escape from it. We lied, we put the blame on someone else, we tattled, hid, pleaded, begged for mercy, or promised we would never do it again.
We also experienced punitive discipline as embarrassing, demeaning, humiliating, frightening, and painful. To be coerced into doing something against our will was a personal insult and an affront to our dignity, an act that devalued the importance of our needs.
Punitive discipline is by definition need-depriving as opposed to need-satisfying. Recall that punishment will be effective only if it is felt by the child as aversive, painful, unpleasant. When controllers employ punishment, they always intend for it to cause pain or deprivation. It seems so obvious, then, that children don’t ever want punitive discipline, contrary to what its advocates would have us believe. No child “asks for it,” “feels a need for it,” or is “grateful for it.” And it is probably true, too, that no child ever forgets or forgives a punitive parent or teacher. This is why I find it incredible that the authors of power-to-the-parent books try to justify power-based discipline with such statements as:
- -”Kids not only need punishment, they want it.”
- -”Children basically want what is coming to them, good or bad, because justice is security.”
- -”Punishment will prove to kids that their parents love them.”
- -”The youngster who knows he deserves a spanking appears almost relieved when it finally comes.”
- -”Rather than be insulted by the discipline, [the child] understands its purpose and appreciates the control it gives him over his own impulses.”
- -”Corporal punishment in the hands of a loving parent is entirely different in purpose and practice [from child abuse]….One is an act of love; the other is an act of hostility.”
- -”Some strong-willed children absolutely demand to be spanked, and their wishes should be granted.”
- -”Punishment will make children feel more secure in their relationship.”
- -”Discipline makes for happy families; healthy relationships.”
Could these be rationalizations intended to relieve the guilt that controllers feel after coercing or committing acts of physical violence against their children? It seems possible in view of the repeated insistence that the punishing adult is really a loving adult, doing it only “for the child’s own good,” or as a dutiful act of “benevolent leadership.” It appears that being firm with children has to be justified by saying, “Be firm but fair”; being tough is acceptable as long as it’s “Tough Love”; being an autocrat is justifiable as long as you’re a “benevolent autocrat”; coercing children is okay as long as you’re not a “dictator”; and physically abusing children is not abuse as long as you “do it lovingly.”
Disciplinarians’ insistence that punishment is benign and constructive might be explained by their desire that children eventually become subservient to a Supreme Being or higher authority. This can only be achieved, they believe, if children first learn to obey their parents and other adults. James Dobson (1978) stresses this point time and time again:
- -”While yielding to the loving leadership of their parents, children are also learning to yield to the benevolent leadership of God Himself.”
- -”With regard to the specific discipline of the strong-willed toddler, mild spankings can begin between 15 and 18 months of age….To repeat, the toddler should be taught to obey and yield to parental leadership, but that end will not be accomplished overnight.”
It’s the familiar story of believing that the ends justify the means. Obedience to parental authority first, and then later to some higher authority, is so strongly valued by some advocates of punitive discipline that the means they utilize to achieve that end are distorted to appear beneficial to children rather than harmful.
The hope that children eventually will submit to all authority is, I think, wishful thinking. Not all children submit when adults try to control them. In fact, children respond with a wide variety of reactions, an assortment of behaviors. Psychologists call these reactions “coping behaviors” or “coping mechanisms”.
The Coping Mechanisms Children Use
Over the years I have compiled a long list of the various coping mechanisms youngsters use when adults try to control them. This list comes primarily out of our Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) and Teacher Effectiveness Training (T.E.T.) classes, where we employ a simple but revealing classroom exercise. Participants are asked to recall the specific ways they themselves coped with power-based discipline when they were youngsters. The question yields nearly identical lists in every class, which confirms how universal children’s coping mechanisms are. The complete list is reproduced below, in no particular order. Note how varied these recurring themes are. (Can you pick out the particular coping methods you employed as a youngster?)
- -Resisting, defying, being negative
- -Rebelling, disobeying, being insubordinate, sassing
- -Retaliating, striking back, counterattacking, vandalizing
- -Hitting, being belligerent, combative
- -Breaking rules and laws
- -Throwing temper tantrums, getting angry
- -Lying, deceiving, hiding the truth
- -Blaming others, tattling, telling on others
- -Bossing or bullying others
- -Banding together, forming alliances, organizing against the adult
- -Apple-polishing, buttering up, soft-soaping, bootlicking, currying favor with adults
- -Withdrawing, fantasizing, daydreaming
- -Competing, needing to win, hating to lose, needing to look good, making others look bad
- -Giving up, feeling defeated, loafing, goofing off
- -Leaving, escaping, staying away from home, running away, quitting school, cutting classes
- -Not talking, ignoring, using the silent treatment, writing the adult off, keeping one’s distance
- -Crying, weeping; feeling depressed or hopeless
- -Becoming fearful, shy, timid, afraid to speak up, hesitant to try anything new
- -Needing reassurance, seeking constant approval, feeling insecure
- -Getting sick, developing psychosomatic ailments
- -Overeating, excessive dieting
- -Being submissive, conforming, complying; being dutiful, docile, apple-polishing, being a goody-goody, teacher’s pet
- -Drinking heavily, using drugs
- -Cheating in school, plagiarizing
As you might expect, after parents and teachers in the class generate their list, and realize that it was created out of their own experience, they invariably make such comments as:
- -”Why would anyone want to use power, if these are the behaviors it produces?”
- -”All of these coping mechanisms are behaviors that I wouldn’t want to see in my children [or my students].”
- -”I don’t see in the list any good effects or positive behaviors.”
- -”If we reacted to power in those ways when we were kids, our own children certainly will, too.”
After this exercise, some parents and teachers undergo a 180-degree shift in their thinking. They see much more clearly that power creates the very behavior patterns they most dislike in children! They begin to understand that as parents and teachers they are paying a terrible price for using power: they are causing their children or students to develop habits, traits, and characteristics considered both unacceptable by most adults and unhealthy by mental health professionals.
Dr. Gordon introduced the Parent Effectiveness Training course in 1962 and revised it in 1997. Parent Effectiveness Training does not encourage punishment or time-out but rather teaches effective parenting skills. For more information about Parent Effectiveness Training and Teacher Effectiveness Training, contact Gordon Training International.
Excerpted with permission of the author from Discipline That Works: Promoting Self-discipline in Children, New York: Plume/Penguin, 1989.