This article is available for free in Arabic on Supermama
Around the time your baby becomes mobile, discipline issues start becoming a daily concern. Parents find themselves correcting and punishing their child more often to keep him safe, clean or stop him from destroying something. Most of us find ourselves suddenly saying “No” much more often which usually leads to tantrums and tears (from both parent and child).
Are there alternatives? Yes! there are ways you can correct your little one and avoid these daily conflict situations as much as possible. The answer is positive discipline.
“Discipline” shouldn’t be confused with “punishment”
Punishment is based on causing some discomfort, fear or loss for the child which forces him to do something. However, it doesn’t tell your child “why not?” or the alternatives. Positive discipline is about teaching your child, helping him understand his boundaries, abilities and encourage him to communicate with you and think for himself. Your child will learn to view himself and the world through the experiences he has with you! What he learns now will set a pattern to how he acts as a teenager and adult. That’s what makes these early years so important in developing the child’s ability to make choices and communicate with others.
So why do children misbehave?
- They feel inadequate: children naturally start developing a need for independence around 18 months which is great for their self esteem. However, if too much is done for them they start believing that they can’t do it.
- Power struggles: another factor of feeling independent, children start defying parents and saying “No” back. Conflict most often occurs when parents are inflexible and too strict. While strict rules may sound good now, think about this: do you want a weak-willed child?
- Attention: If your child mostly gets attention when he misbehaves, he will continue to misbehave because this is the way he knows to get his parents’ time and attention. Make sure you compliment your child in the positive situations as well to show him there are alternatives to getting your time.
Here are some positive discipline tips that you can start implementing today
- Set few clear rules. Rules are needed to let children know what they can and can’t do. Let your child know the limits and explain the consequences. Setting few rules makes it easier for your child to remember and follow. Prioritize safety rules like not touching the oven or crossing the street alone.
- Get down to your child’s eye level. This makes it easier to get and maintain your child’s attention. Most likely when you’re shouting out something overhead your child will have completely missed that you’re talking to him.
- Take a moment before reacting. If your child is misbehaving there is no need to jump in right away unless he is harming himself or others. Giving yourself a few seconds to grasp the situation and approach it calmly can make a world of difference. Remember to keep your voice firm but low when speaking to your child.
- Provide an appropriate environment. Your child may sometimes have difficulty controlling his impulses so make sure your setting is child friendly. Put away tempting objects and bring along a story or box of crayons when going out to give your child age appropriate alternatives.
- Express yourself and offer alternatives. Use sentences that express how you feel. “I can’t read the paper when you crumble the pages. You can get your story and read next to me”. This way you’re expressing yourself positively and sending a clear message to your child. At the same time you are offering an alternative which will redirect your child to an activity that is appropriate for the moment.
- Offer Choices. Giving your child choices fosters that feeling of independence and enables your child to make decisions. “You can have your bath now or after dinner”, “Do you want your blue T-shirt or the red one?”. Try to limit choices to just two items at this stage to avoid confusion.
- NEVER use physical punishment. There is absolutely no benefit from using physical punishment like spanking to discipline your child. This method instills fear and low self esteem in the child instead of an internal ability to be good. It also teaches him that this is an appropriate way to handle disagreements and as an adult may result in abusive relationships between spouses or friends.
Things to keep in mind:
- You need to realize that children are different; each child has a different personality and temperament. There is no “one rule fits all”. As parents, you need to look at your child(ren) and adapt what works best with his character.
- Your toddler isn’t out to get you! It may seem that your child “just isn’t listening“, however you should know that at this age impulse control is still a developing skill and is very difficult for your child to control.
- Take time to reflect on your parenting strategy; how is your current communication with your child? do you find yourself saying “No” and yelling more than you would like?
I hope you find this information practical and useful in your daily life. Let us know what experiences you’ve had with your own child.
Photo from Parentclass.org