This article was featured in Arabic on Supermama
Every parent knows that kids have a tendency to say the strangest things at the most inappropriate times. But what happens when your child picks up on some bad language? Young children can be exposed to inappropriate language from several sources; an older sibling, TV or even their own parents who may occasionally slip up. Usually young children don’t understand that a given word is “bad” or “good”, they just repeat words they hear because that’s how they get to learn about social interaction and develop their language skills. If a word gets attention (encouragement or punishment) that sends a message that your child is doing something right he’s most likely to repeat it to get your attention.
If your child has picked up a few inappropriate words don’t guilt yourself. Children are exposed to so many sources of language and information it’s quite rare that a child won’t hear any bad language while growing up. There are many things you can do to prevent your child from acquiring bad language and redirecting him to more appropriate words.
What you can do:
- Be a role model. Watch out for your own language in certain situations. Words can slip out when we’re angry or frustrated like when we’re stuck in traffic or someone cuts us off while driving.
- Monitor what your child is watching on TV. Avoid shows that could contain inappropriate content so that your child isn’t exposed to inappropriate language.
- Don’t give extra attention when your child uses a bad word. As we mentioned children often repeat inappropriate words because of the attention they get. Calmly but firmly let your child know that this word is not OK and show him how to better express himself if he’s feeling frustrated or upset.
- Let your child know that words can be hurtful when he/she calls someone a bad name. Try to help your child understand that some words can make people feel bad.
- Avoid labeling your child as bad when he uses inappropriate language. It’s important to make it clear that it’s the language that is bad not your child. Always give your child an alternative. It may be obvious to us as adults but remember that your child is still learning all the Dos and Don’ts of social interaction.
- Give an age appropriate response. Young children most often repeat words without knowing their meaning. To them repeating bad language holds the same value as repeating any other word that got attention. Don’t over react by punishing your child or shouting, this will only make your child focus on these words and let him know this is an effective (although negative) way of getting your attention.
- Praise more appropriate words and actions done by your child. You don’t have to go overboard but giving your child a smile or saying “that’s nice of you” lets her know she’s on the right track and that what she’s doing is encouraged.
These are just some suggestions to help make your life easier. You have to decide what works best with your child and family. Remember to follow through and be consistent. Patience is important especially when you change your behavior, it will take time for your child to respond and get used to the new pattern.
Photo by Mindaugas Danys
This article was featured in Arabic on Supermama
You may be very familiar with this situation; your child is doing something you explicitly told him not to yet again! It seems that communication and negotiation just don’t seem to work with your child. The solution? you resort to spanking. Spanking might seem to stop your child’s misbehavior, for now, but it isn’t helping in the long run! Spanking may have short term effects in stopping your child’s misbehavior but it certainly doesn’t have any positive long term effects. In fact, research has shown that the use of physical punishment such as spanking can have negative long term effects on your child.
Studies have found that children who experience physical punishment may experience low self-esteem and lower self-worth. There is a risk they may perform worse academically and socially than children who never experience physical punishment. They tend to be more aggressive with other children and may have more behavioral and conduct problems.
The use of physical punishment with your child sends a message that it’s OK to use physical aggression when interacting with other people instead of giving him tools for effective communication. Research has shown that children who experience physical punishment are more likely to be aggressive themselves. Which may mean the use of aggression with friends at school, later spousal relationships and with their own children.
So far science has shown that no good can come from using physical punishment with young chidren. On the other hand, positive methods that include parental warmth and sensitivity seem to be more effective in reducing conduct problems than harsh parenting. Children who tend to misbehave seem to be less sensitive to punishment but more sensitive to reward in terms of parental warmth.
So, what should you do to deal with your child’s misbehavior instead of spanking?
First, find out why your child is misbehaving:
- Does he get attention from you when he does positive things or is it only when he misbehaves? Is he trying to get attention from a younger sibling? Is there a reoccuring pattern where your child’s misbehavior seems to escalate?
- Understanding the reason behind your child’s misbehavior is a crucial first step. Remember that your child isn’t out to get you, the reasons most likely have to do with getting your attention.
- Children at this age might easily get frustrated if they don’t get to do things for themselves. A need for independence is for young children and is a healthy feeling to encourage.
- Know that impulse control is extremely difficult for young children. That’s because the part in their brain (prefrontal cortex) in charge of controlling their impulses has not yet developed, this makes it hard for young children to think about what they’re doing in advance or making decision.
Second, there are alternatives to physical punishment when dealing with your child’s misbehavior:
- Start with yourself: Always give yourself a few seconds before reacting to your child. If he is not harming himself or others you can afford a few seconds to assess the situation and decide how to react calmly. A calm reaction can have a more effective impact than an angry response.
- Restate rules: Try to have few clear rules that are mostly related to safety. That way your child will have clear boundaries that he knows shouldn’t be crossed.
- Use positive sentences: Avoid using “No” too much so it doesn’t lose its effectiveness. Instead start sentences positively like “Let’s go play in the sandbox instead of in the mud”.
- Persistence: When disciplining your child it’s important to be patient and remember that children learn with repetition. So even if your child doesn’t seem to get it this time, he eventually will.
- Consistence: It’s also important to stick to what you say. If you decide that you have to go home because your child is not using his bicycle in the bicycle area then stick to your decision and follow through. Don’t use threats to get your child to do what you want. If your child decides to test your limits, that can turn into a power struggle and your child will eventually learn that if he pushes hard enough he will get his way.
- Compromise: Remember that your child has a natural need to feel independent at this young age so try to compromise when possible. This can mean giving choices in what to wear, eat or when to have a bath. Make sure you limit the choices to two options so it’s easy for your child to make a decision and that the choices are acceptable to you so you can follow through.
- Patience: The most important tool of all is to be patient. Remember that everything is new for your child. So many new experiences and so much information that he has to remember it can sometimes be overwhelming and frustrating, especially that his mental, physical, emotional, language and social abilities are still developing.
I hope this new understanding on spanking will give you a new perspective on discipline and that our positive discipline tools can help you in dealing with your young child’s difficult behavior.
Photo Credit: Ethic Soup