1. Don’t change the rules
One day you allow your child to help themselves to sweets, the next day you yell at them for doing so. Children battle to understand when the boundaries shift on a daily basis. It creates insecurity, which they may act out on by being disobedient.
Problems can also arise if you and your partner have conflicting views based on your upbringing, which can cause further confusion and conflict for your child.
The two of you need to negotiate some middle ground before the situation of discipline arises. Not doing so could see your child playing one parent off against the other.
Set firm boundaries and mutually agree on what is acceptable behaviour and what’s not. This will give you a united front when it comes to implementing the rules.
2. Don’t discipline when you yourself are angry
If you’re screaming like a banshee, it will only add to your child’s trauma. If you feel you have reached maximum tolerance level, and when staying calm is simply not an option, make sure your child is safe with someone else so you can give yourself time to unwind and calm down. Acknowledge your own anger without judgement and tell your child why you need a few minutes on your own. Take a walk, visit a friend, listen to music, do some breathing exercises, lock yourself in your bedroom – even if it’s only for two minutes, to calm yourself, so that when you return, you can resume control of the situation, without having your own anger to cope with.
If you have screamed at your child, apologise. That way, they will learn that this is not acceptable behaviour. Don’t be too harsh with yourself – we all get angry.
3. Don’t resort to physical violence
By resorting to spanking, we create a situation where physical violence is acceptable and then expect a child, who at this age has low levels of discretion, to figure out why they can’t do the same. If your child sees that it’s acceptable for you to hit him when you’re angry or believe they’ve behaved in a way that’s not acceptable, then why would you expect them not to lash out at a friend who behaves in a way they feel is not acceptable to them?
Spanking doesn’t teach discipline in terms of teaching a child how to change their behaviour. Fear of being hit again may make a child listen to you immediately after you have hit them, but long term behaviour will remain, albeit covert.
While spanking may cause the child to fear you, it seldom teaches respect. If you have not treated your child with respect, he won’t treat you with respect either.
Studies have shown that spanking teaches violence as a solution to conflict, increases aggressive behaviour and makes other methods of discipline harder to implement.
4. Don’t focus on the negatives
If your child wets his pants, would you yell: “You’re a bad boy, you know you’re too old to do that!” Or would you say, “Hey, did you forget to go to the toilet? It’s fine that happens.”
Constant negative criticism will create negative behaviour. Sentence such as “Oh, you always get things wrong” or “You’re just a bad boy” and “Can’t you get anything right?” will perpetuate the very behaviour you want to avoid. Children become what you expect of them.
If your expectations of them are low, they will respond accordingly. So work on the positive.
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