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
Using time-out has become a regular disciplinary method that most parents use, but is it really effective? How many times have you put your child in time-out for misbehaving only to have him do the same thing you told him not to after he’s done with time-out? Who hasn’t struggled with making a toddler stay in time-out? You keep on putting him back but he keeps leaving the time-out space and pretty soon it’s turned into a game for him and frustration for you.
Why time-out doesn’t work
There’s actually a very good reason why time-out doesn’t work. Young children under 5 find it extremely difficult to control and regulate their feeling. So when they are asked to go to time-out and clam down they simply can’t do it. Whatever feeling your child is going through at that moment just seems too much to handle for him. He needs you to help him, he simply can’t do it alone. Another reason is that children need immediate consequences to help them learn. Prolonging punishment isn’t really going to help you emphasize your point. When a child is asked to go in his room and “think about what he’s done” that doesn’t give him any idea as to what he did wrong or what he could have done instead. Young children are still learning and exploring, everything is new to them. What might come naturally to you may be a skill your child needs to be introduced to. This doesn’t mean you should be permissive with your child and just let him do whatever he wants. Time-out can also be an effective tool when used positively.
What you can do
- Remove your child from the situation to a calm spot if he is misbehaving or is having a meltdown
- Remind your child of house rules like “no-hitting” depending on the situation
- Use time-out as a calming space and not punishment. Don’t leave your child alone in time-out and don’t associate it with something negative. Instead provide your child with support and comfort to help him recognize his feelings, listen to why he misbehaved, discuss with him why his behavior was inappropriate and explain the kind of behavior you expect from him.
- With repetition time-out can become a place for your child to regulate his feelings. Instead of threatening to send him to time-out you can enable him to use time-out to calm himself. If you start seeing signs that your child is feeling frustrated and agitated you can ask him if he needs some time-out. As your child grows older and learns to regulate his emotions on his own he can use time-out by himself.
- Don’t overuse it. Like anything else don’t resort to time-out every time your child misbehaves. Find out why your child is misbehaving or feeling frustrated and choose an appropriate solution for that specific situation.
- Distinguish between your child’s behavior and your child. Avoid using words like “stop being naughty”. Labeling your child tells him what to think of himself not his behavior. Instead explain what behavior was wrong “stop jumping on the sofa”. You want to send a message about your child’s behavior not himself to help him find an alternative and maintain his self confidence.
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Photo from Sheknows.com
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
Here is a list of fun ideas you can do with your baby with materials that are around the house or are easily accessible
This fun activity from The Imagination Tree is great for your baby’s fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination and sensory skills.Check out more Baby Play ideas on their site.
Also featured on The Imagination Tree. Playing with mirrors is great for exploring the self, textures and environment. Different mirror materials can be used, like toy mirrors, story box mirrors and other safe reflective surfaces.
Your baby can usually start rolling a ball between 8 – 18 months. Most children are capable of this when they are around a year old. It’s a great activity for developing eye-hand coordination, which is a skill needed later for drawing, writing and eating. Ball rolling is also great for physical gross and fine motor development. You can use small or big balls to keep your baby entertained and depending on her ability and age. Remember don’t force your baby into the activity, just giving her the opportunity is enough, she’ll participate when she’s ready.
Listening to music has been associated with increased spatial reasoning. Music and dance can have numerous positive effects on your baby; putting her in a good mood, helping her relax and just plain having fun. Dancing is an activity that can foster physical development as well as emotional and cognitive abilities. I’ve had experience with babies as young as 6 months moving their feet to the beat! Don’t be shy to give your baby some shakers or instruments to help her express herself and how she feels with the music.
Babies usually love water! Although they might find it stressful to take a bath in the first few weeks, most babies grow to love it and start crying when you take them out of the bath! Let your baby have some extra bath time and surround him with some rubber duckies and other safe play material. Some areas also offer swimming time for parents and their infants in groups. If you have access to a garden or beach, give your little one the chance to experience the wet mud and sand. It might be a hassle to clean up but you’re giving him a great experience in feeling textures and exploration which is great for his brain development. Remember never leave a baby in water unsupervised as it is extremely dangerous since babies can easily drown in a few inches of water.
Of course the most irreplaceable source of joy is you! Mom and Dad! You can provide your baby with all the stimulation and interaction he needs. Talking and singing helps his language, emotion, social and cognitive development. Your face is an endless screen of expressions that teaches him how social interaction works. Your actions are a perfect model to how baby should act and behave. Most of all you know your baby more than anyone and can give him what he needs at the right time 🙂
Check out more great activities to do with your newborn and baby on the Imagination Tree’s site and The Bub Hub
Cover Photo by Mariam El Mofty
My second article in the Positive Parenting series I am writing for SuperMama. You can find it on their website in English and Arabic
As part of taking a positive approach towards parenting we previously discussed understanding your toddlers’ temperament. In this article, we follow the same approach and why try to understand our toddler’s impulse control; in other words, why toddlers can’t seem to stop themselves.
What is impulse control?
Even though it may seem at times that your child doesn’t listen to a word you say, remember that your child isn’t out to get you. If you sometimes feel that your child just can’t seem to control his actions, you’re probably right but it’s for a good reason! That’s because at this young age your child is still beginning to develop impulse control, which is a person’s ability to suppress or restrain himself from doing something, like concentrating on your work while shutting out distractions. It also includes the concept of delayed gratification which is the ability to wait in order to get something you want.
Why do toddlers seem to lose control and “not listen”?
As a parent you may be thinking that your toddler has difficulty restraining himself or waiting for things and you have a point! That’s because these abilities depend on a part of the brain called the frontal lobes, which develop slower than other parts of the brain. By age two development is underway but won’t be well developed till age 7, some reports even state that it continues to it’s mature form by the age of 21.
As a toddler, your child is struggling to control his emotions and actions. Lack of impulse control is what causes your child to reach for the remote yet again even though you already said “No” several times. It’s when your child persists to want the cookie NOW! And when emotions become too hard to handle and result in tantrums. Understanding what your child is and isn’t capable of can help you have appropriate expectations and result in fewer situations of conflict between you and your child.
So why is impulse control important?
Won’t most children outgrown this phase? Yes, most children will, however the quality and their ability to regulate their emotions and actions depends largely on their experiences as young children. It’s the difference in early experiences that will result in developmental differences later in life. A classic study called the Marshmallow Test was conducted where 4-year olds were asked to stay in a room for a few minutes with a marshmallow and not eat it. They were told if they didn’t eat it by the time the observer came back, they would get the marshmallow in addition to another one. Of course, some children ended up eating the whole thing as soon as the observer left and never looked back. However, there were those who waited and got them both. The interesting part is that years later researchers caught up with the same group of children, who were now in their teens. Surprisingly, those who had controlled themselves and waited as children were more self-confident, popular among peers, able to cope better with frustration and more successful in school than those who ate the marshmallow straight away.
What You Can Do:
- Set few clear rules: The more things are off-limits the more likely your child will end up misbehaving. Constantly saying “No” decreases it’s effectiveness when you really need to use it. Try to select few clear rules that cover safety and will allow your child to play and explore at the same time.
- Provide an appropriate environment:Now that you know why your child sometimes has difficulty controlling his impulses make sure your setting is child friendly. Put objects you don’t want him to touch out of reach and bring along a story or box of crayons when going out to give your child age appropriate alternatives.
- Remind him of the rules: Don’t anticipate misbehavior but remind your child positively about what is expected of him in certain situations. For example, explaining that she can help you find the items in the supermarket but no running down the aisle. This way you positively redirect your child and give her an alternative.
- Practice turn taking: Whether it’s with you or a sibling, encourage your child to wait for his turn. This will help foster impulse control as your child eventually learns to trust the situation and that he will get his turn. Remember to always follow through or give an honest explanation if you can’t.
- Play games that take time: Doing puzzles or using building blocks can help your child learn patience as she works to reach her desired goal.
I hope this article helps you understand your child’s developmental abilities to control his impulse. Remember that when your child feels overwhelmed, sometimes comfort is more effective than correction.
Bright from the Start by Jill Stamm