You’ve read it in parenting magazines or books, you’ve heard it on talk shows, your friends have discussed the topic on the field of your kids’ soccer games and you’re no stranger to fretting over this hot-topic behavior yourself…disciplining children. It seems that discipline has individuals worrying over their quality as a parent based on their method and the frequency of their need to discipline their children. The number of times you have to discipline your child is no measure of how good or bad of a parent you are to your child. Your approach to discipline may not be the same as your best friend or the President of the parents’ association at your child’s school. Your system of discipline will be based on your child’s needs, behaviors, temperament, etc.
It is vital to note that physical or verbal abuse as a method of discipline is never acceptable under any circumstances. The physical and emotional damage that is caused by abusing your child may be permanent and gravely affect their ability to form as well as flourish in future relationships. There are ways to successfully discipline your child without laying a finger on or verbally abusing them.
The first step to understanding successful discipline is to determine the goal you wish to achieve from using this behavior management technique. You may want your child to understand what he/she did wrong, take away privileges in order to illustrate that there are consequences to one’s actions or you may want to issue a timeout as a moment to regroup from your child’s misbehavior. Your child’s actions and the severity of them will guide you to determine the type of “punishment” you give to your child. Discipline should teach your child a lesson. Besides a few sighs and groaning, some pouting and possibly the silent treatment, discipline should give your child the opportunity to understand her wrongdoing as well as to discourage him/her from repeating that action or behavior in the future.
During the time you are disciplining your child, ask your child questions using age-appropriate language. Ask, “Do you know why I’m upset with you?” and “Why would I be mad that you didn’t clean your room when I asked you to before?” When you make these inquiries, you will get a better idea of your child’s thoughts and emotions of the situation, which will better equip you to successfully deal with your child during difficult times. Providing your child with specific feedback regarding their misbehavior will give your child the ability to understand what he/she did wrong and hopefully, that they will suffer the same or worse consequences if they do it again in the future.
Along with asking questions, try “negotiating” as a way to discipline your child. For example, if your child didn’t clean up her toy area, ask, “Since you didn’t clean up your toys, what do you think your punishment should be?” Inform your child that you both have three chances to agree upon her consequence. This method can enable your child to realize that the more severe her misconduct, the more severe the consequence. During your negotiation, your child will not only become responsible of her actions, but also for the consequences. Negotiating and taking responsibility for one’s actions are not only skills that will make an individual successful in discipline, but also in life.
The “punishment” needs to always fit the “crime”. For example, if a child hits her sibling (unfortunately, it happens), taking away television for life is entirely unreasonable. You may find that placing your child in a timeout and writing (with your help) or drawing a picture (depending on the age of child) to express your child’s remorse for her actions as well as for hurting her sibling, making that sibling cry, etc. is a more successful approach. The next time you are about to discipline your child, make sure you are increasing her understanding of her misconduct, reducing the frequency of the occurrence and finding the appropriate consequences for her actions.
Author Bio: Anna Kaminsky is a blogger, a mother of two boys, and an aspiring child psychologist. She is a PhD student at the University of Toronto and an intern at the Richmond Hill Psychology Center, where she helps child psychologists and therapists with play therapy and scoring for psycho-educational assessments and gifted testing. You can follow Anna on Twitter at @AnnaKaminsky1.