Tag Archives: punishment
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.
Toddlers throw tantrums because they have an intense desire to do things, but their mental and motor skills have developed more quickly than their ability to communicate. Because they don’t quite yet have the ability to express frustration, they do so by throwing a tantrum. Tantrums are a part of normal child development. However, there are ways for which parents can learn how prevent them.
The two types are: manipulative tantrums and frustration tantrums. Frustration tantrums, on the other hand, require empathy. Take these emotional outbursts as an opportunity to bond with your child. Offer a helping hand, a comforting “it’s okay.” Help him out where he feels frustrated at not being able to accomplish a task. Encourage your child to put words to their feelings.
Never punish or engage your child during a tantrum. The more control you try to take, the more resistant your child will be. Respect and guidance will go a long way with your temper tantrum prevention efforts.
To learn more about the steps on how to prevent and deal with tantrums, read Kimberley’s book www.TheGoToMomsGuide.com.
By Alfie Kohn
A despot welcomes a riot. Disorder provides an excuse to rescind liberties in order to restore calm. There are only two choices, after all: chaos and control. Even the creators of Get Smart understood that.
And so, too, do the creators of Supernanny and Nanny 911. Each week they poke their cameras into a dysfunctional suburban home where the children are bouncing off the walls and the parents are ready to climb them. There’s whining, there’s yelling, there’s hitting . . . and the kids are just as bad. But wait. Look up there: It’s a bird. It’s a plain-dressed, no-nonsense British nanny, poised to swoop in with a prescription for old-fashioned control. Soon the clueless American parents will be comfortably back in charge, the children will be calm and compliant, and everyone will be sodden with gratitude. Cue the syrupy music, the slow-mo hugs, the peek at next week’s even more hopeless family.
These programs elevate viewer manipulation to an art form. For starters, the selection of unusually obnoxious children invites us to enjoy a shiver of self-congratulation: At least my kids — and my parenting skills — aren’t that bad! More to the point, these anarchic families set us up to root for totalitarian solutions. Anything to stop the rioting.
We’re encouraged to pretend that living with a camera crew doesn’t influence how parents and children interact, and to disregard what it says about these people that they allowed their humiliation to be televised. We’re asked to believe that families can be utterly transformed in a few days and to assume that the final redemptive images reveal the exceptional skills of the nanny — rather than of the program’s editing staff. By now, a fair number of TV dramas, and even some sitcoms, refrain from serving up contrived happy endings. Sometimes the patient dies, the perp outwits the prosecutor, the jerk is unreformed. Yet here, in the realm of nonfiction programming, a tidy solution must be found before sign-off. Perhaps it’s reality television that’s most divorced from reality.
We might just laugh off the implausibility of these programs except that they’re teaching millions of real parents how to raise their real kids. To that extent, it matters that they’re selling snake-oil.
Consider ABC’s Supernanny. (Fox’s copycat Nanny 911 differs mostly in that a rotating cast of nannies shares top billing.) The show is rigidly formulaic: Jo Frost, the titular nanny and now bestselling author, arrives, observes, grimaces, states the obvious, imposes a schedule along with a set of rules and punishments. The parents stumble but then get the hang of her system. Contentment ensues.
The limits of the show, however, are less consequential than the limits of its star. Ms. Frost’s approach to family crises is stunningly simple-minded; it’s the narrowness of her repertoire, not merely the constraints of the medium, that lead her to ignore the important questions. She never stops to ask whether the demands of work and kids could be more gracefully reconciled if high-quality, low-cost daycare was available. She doesn’t even inquire into psychological issues. Are the parents’ expectations appropriate for the age of the child? Might something deeper than a lack of skills explain why they respond, or fail to respond, to their children as they do? How were they raised?
The nanny never peers below the surface, and her analysis of every family is identical. The problem is always that the parents aren’t sufficiently vigorous in controlling their children. She has no reservations about power as long as only the big people have it. Kids are the enemy to be conquered. (At the beginning of Nanny 911, the stentorian narrator warns of tots “taking over the household”; the children in one episode are described as “little monsters.”) Parents learn how to get them to take their naps now. Whether the kids are tired is irrelevant.
Supernanny’s favorite words are “technique” and “consistency.” First, a schedule is posted — they will all eat at six o’clock because she says so – and the children are given a list of generic rules. The point is enforcement and order, not teaching and reflection. Thus, rather than helping a child to think about the effects of his aggression on others, he is simply informed that hitting is “unacceptable”; reasons and morality don’t enter into it. Then he is forced to “stand in the naughty corner.” Later, the nanny instructs Dad to command the child to apologize. The desired words are muttered under duress. The adults seem pleased.
For balance, kids are controlled with rewards as well as with punishments. Those who haven’t been eating what (or when, or as much as) the parent wishes are slathered with praise as soon as they do so – a “Good boy!” for every mouthful. Sure enough, they fork in some more food. These children may be so desperate for acceptance that they settle for contingent reinforcement in place of the unconditional love they really need.
The little girl in one family is accustomed to having Mom lie down next to her at bedtime. Forget it, says Supernanny, and the tradition is ended without warning or explanation. When the girl screams, that only proves how manipulative she is. Later, Mom confesses, “I felt like I was almost mistreating her.” “Do not give in,” urges the nanny, and misgivings soon yield to “It’s working; it’s getting quieter” – meaning that her daughter has abandoned hope that Mom will snuggle with her.
On another episode, a boy is playing with a hose in the backyard when his mother suddenly announces, “You’re done.” The boy protests (“I’m cleaning!”) so she turns off the water. He becomes angry and kicks over a wagon. Supernanny is incredulous: “Just because she turned the water off!” There is no comment about the autocratic, disrespectful parenting that precipitated his outburst. But then, autocratic, disrespectful parenting is her stock in trade.
Supernanny’s superficiality isn’t accidental; it’s ideological. What these shows are peddling is behaviorism. The point isn’t to raise a child; it’s to reinforce or extinguish discrete behaviors – which is sufficient if you believe, along with the late B.F. Skinner and his surviving minions, that there’s nothing to us other than those behaviors.
Behaviorism is as American as rewarding children with apple pie. We’re a busy people, with fortunes to make and lands to conquer. We don’t have time for theories or complications: Just give us techniques that work. If firing thousands of employees succeeds in boosting the company’s stock price; if imposing a scripted, mind-numbing curriculum succeeds in raising students’ test scores; if relying on bribes and threats succeeds in making children obey, then there’s no need to ask, “But for how long does it work? And at what cost?”
In the course of researching a book about parenting, I discovered some disconcerting research on the damaging effects of techniques like the “naughty corner” (better known as time-out), which are basically forms of love withdrawal. I also found quite a bit of evidence that parents who refrain from excessive control and rely instead on warmth and reason are more likely to have children who do what they’re asked – and who grow into responsible, compassionate, healthy people.
If you can bear to sit through them, the nanny programs provide a fairly reliable guide for how not to raise children. They also offer an invitation to think about the pervasiveness of pop-behaviorism and our hunger for the quick fix. “I guarantee you,” Supernanny earnestly, if tautologically, exhorts one pair of parents, “every time you’re consistent, [your child] gets the same message.”
Granted, but what message?
May 23, 2005
By Dr. Ann Corwin
Once again the SuperNanny has it all wrong this week. Having a child in distress for over 3 hours in order to teach the child that the parent is in charge, is abuse, in my opinion. The 5 year old was never given anything in order to help her soothe herself when she was in distress. The Super nanny actually says on ‘prime time television’ that this little girl refused to do her punishment.
Once and for all let’s get this straight: punishment NEVER changes behavior, only discipline does. Discipline comes from the word disciple, which means to teach so someone can follow. Parents always teach your children how to comfort themselves when they need or have to be away from you.
First Jo starts out with an observation of the family. She put them on the spot as she assesses the situation. That makes the parents feel judged and makes them second guess if they are good parents. Not a good message in my opinion. How about teaching families how to ‘watch’ themselves and see what they discover about their family?
I want parents to know it is ‘safe’ for them to ‘look’ at the patterns in their family to discover what works and what doesn’t.
Here’s an idea for parents: pretend there is a video camera on your shoulder and no one gets to look at it but you. When your child is ‘misbehaving’ what do you do in response to your child?
When does the behavior happen, is it only withy you or at school too? Parents can then use that information to figure out what needs changing.
Again I have to mention the ridiculous use of the ‘time-out’ technique. Dad picks up his child facing him and talks to his child all the way through about the ‘bad’ behavior. The child is brought to a specific place, the ‘cubes’, in order to change behavior.
Please remember parents that time and place never change behavior. It is the ‘out’ of the time out that re-teaches kids what you want them to do. Because if a child is alone they will talk to themselves about how to change their behavior so they can once again be with their parent.
Way to go Jo you did set Dad straight with some wonderful insight and techniques to help him understand normal ‘pretend’ play for 3ytear olds. And Mom getting dirty was awesome.
And you were ALMOST on the right track with ‘snack box’. Remember, the way we learn healthy eating habits is not focusing on when and where you eat, but listening to your body when you are hungry. Some people are snackers, some eat three square meals a day and neither one of these the ‘right’ way to eat, just a style.
Visit Dr. Ann at www.TheParentingdoctor.com