Children need a consistent, positive approach to become emotionally mature. What are the components of a positive approach?
• Be clear about what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable. Base your rules on what can be reasonably expected from a child at their current stage of development. Expecting a 2 year old to sit still for long periods of time is not reasonable. However, expecting a 4 year old to help pick up his toys is.
• For every “no,” offer two acceptable choices. “No! David cannot bite Jeff. That hurts Jeff. David can bite the rubber ring or the cracker.”
• Validate what your child is feeling and the reasoning behind it. “I know you want to be with Mommy now but I need to go out.” This lets your child know you understand his desires and also teaches him others have needs too.
• Use logical consequences to make a point. If your child misuses a toy, put it up for a few hours. If he spills his juice, have him help clean it up.
• Model appropriate behaviors. If we act with self-control, empathy, and kindness-so will they. On the other hand, if we shout in anger, ridicule, or react violently-they will also.
• Help your child learn to label his emotions. If he becomes angry while playing encourage him to express it verbally, “You seem very angry. Did that make you mad?” Try creative solutions. If clothes and toys are left out, start using baskets and low hooks for easy clean up. If your child draws on the wall try hanging a large wipe-off board within his reach and encourage him to draw there.
• Be consistent. Children can become confused if the rules are constantly changing. Both parents need to agree on limits and consequences.
• Overlook attention-seeking behaviors. Ignore behaviors that will not harm your child or others, such as tantrums, whining, or inappropriate language. Sometimes children misbehave because they want our attention.
• Give your child plenty of attention, hugs, and praise when they act appropriately. Let them know specifically what behavior you want them to repeat.
• Help your child to think of new ways to solve problems. If he regularly forgets to bring his assignments home from school, ask him for suggestions that may help spark his memory. Encourage him to ‘brainstorm’ ideas with you.
• Treat your child with the same kindness and respect you would another adult. Do not interrupt him when he is talking to you. Use courteous words such as “thank you, please, and you’re welcome.”
The ultimate goal of positive discipline is to teach children self-control. If parents are too harsh and critical, they stifle their children’s emerging self-worth. If on the other hand, parents fail to provide loving limits, children will become tyrants who lack essential social slulls. The key to effective positive discipline is a balance between firm limits and reasonable expectations coupled with lots of love and encouragement!