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
Children’s misbehavior is often unintentional or has a reason behind it. A child’s natural way of learning is exploring. Everything is new for them and the one way they can figure things out is by trying. Children get a lot of feedback on their behavior by how we (adults) react. If something gets minimal attention it’s likely a child won’t do it again unless he personally enjoyed it. On the other hand, if he gets your attention then he’s figured things out! It’s the same reason we naturally clap and make a big deal when baby takes his first step or says his first word. All that encouragement tells him he’s doing something right. It also has the same effect when we react to misbehavior and say “No!”.
You’re thinking “I can’t say No??”. That’s not what I’m saying. Using “No” is an effective way to immedietly get your child’s attention and have him stop what he’s doing..for a minute..then what? Let’s think of this from your child’s perspective; he’s banging with the spoon on the table. It’s a new experience and the sound is interesting and he’s doing something. Here comes Mommy, I’ll show her what I can do…Bang! Bang!…I’ve got her attention now! Naturally you reaction is to stop that annoying banging, anyone would do the same. You say “No banging with the spoon!”. He stops for a second, looks at you with his spoon midair, it looks like he got the message but a second later he’s at it again.
Why “No” alone doesn’t work
While “No” sends a message to your child to stop, it doesn’t tell him what to do instead. This is where redirection comes in handy. Even after you’ve told your child to stop banging the spoon, he’s still interested in doing that. Show him what he can do instead. Swap the spoon for something with a soft top or show him how to bang on something less.
Using redirection once doesn’t mean your child will get the message right away. Keep at it and redirect several times. Children learn through repetition and patterns. The more consistent his experience is, the more he’ll understand what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.
How to redirect
It all depends on what you are distracting your child from. If your child is doing something that can harm him you have to be firm and remove him immediately. Safety comes first. However, in everyday safe situations you can gently redirect your child to a more appropriate activity.
- Speak to your child in a calm voice. Like we said, giving too much attention will only reinforce the unwanted behavior
- Give your child an acceptable alternative immediately
- Offer choices. This can help your child accept the new option. Limit choices to two acceptable options to make it easier for your child.
- Model acceptable behavior. If you don’t want your child throwing things then think twice about tossing your keys, the TV remote or a pillow at your spouse. Watching and learning is one of the key ways children lean about social interaction.
- Remember, don’t use food as a reward or distraction. Food is a basic and necessary part of our lives which children should learn to use in a healthy manner. Avoid using it as a form of emotional replacement or an alternative activity.
Remember that each child is different. What works with your friend’s child may not work with yours. Your child is unique so try to find out what he enjoys so you can redirect him to an acceptable activity that will match his interests.
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Photo Thanks to Mariam El Mofty Photography
Bedtime struggles are a common problem with toddlers and preschoolers. It can be exhausting and frustrating when your child refuses to go to bed at the end of a long day. The good news is that there is usually a solution. The key is figuring out what the problem is and why your child is refusing to go to bed. Even though it might be a daily struggle that most children do, there can be a different reason on different nights with different children.
Here are some common reasons for bedtime struggles and why your child may not be going to bed, what you can do and finally general guidelines to peaceful bedtime.
1.Rushed or Chaotic Bedtime, if bedtime is rushed or loud it can be hard for your child to go from playing to falling asleep in a few minutes. Other distractions like the TV being on or older siblings playing in another room are a constant reminder to your child that others are still up and “playing”. Naturally, he still wants to be a part of that and will refuse to go to bed or will find it hard to fall asleep.
- What you can do:
make sure you give bedtime the time it deserves. It might be tough after a long day but making time before bedtime can save you a lot of time and energy and help you avoid the power struggle at bedtime. Make sure bedtime is a quiet time, give your child some notice that bedtime is near, try to establish a bedtime routine to prepare your child for bed. Turn off the TV and put away all toys in the last hour before bedtime. Dim the lights and try to have the family do quiet activities like reading. Make sure that bedtime is as boring as possible.
2. Your Child doesn’t want to Go or Stay in Bed, If your child doesn’t want to go to bed he may be distracted by other sounds in the house or just not exhausted enough to go to bed.
- What you can do:
Like the example above, make sure bedtime is a quiet time. If your child keeps on bouncing in and out of bed and is full of energy, he might not be getting enough activity during the day to tire him out. Make sure he gets enough physical activity during the day, scale back daytime naps or wake him up a bit earlier in the morning. Remember that quiet time is important. If your child is very active before bedtime make sure to give him some extra time to wind down. Don’t turn bedtime into a power struggle, if your child keeps getting out of bed simply put him back into bed, wait a few minutes and assure him you will be back to check on him in a few minutes. Check on your child from the doorway every few minutes and tell him what a good job he’s doing falling asleep. After a few times when he feels safe and reassured he’ll start to fall asleep.
3.Your child won’t go to sleep alone, Your child may also find it difficult to sleep alone and may need some extra comfort to go to bed. He might not want to fall asleep on his own because he feels insecure. At this age children have a very active imagination and shadows and sounds can be scary.
- What you can do:
Encourage your child to fall asleep alone. You can help him feel secure by giving him a favorite comfort object like a stuffed animal to sleep with. You can leave a night light on or keep the bedroom door open. If your child is afraid of “monsters under the bed” take these fear seriously and play along by “kicking the monsters out” of the room. This can sometimes be more effective than saying that there are no such things as monsters. Remember to start with a calming bedtime routine. You can also promise your child to check in on him every few minutes like the example above.
4. Your Child wakes up during the night,most children wake up during the night and fall back asleep. If your child is having difficult falling back asleep during the night it might be because he is too stressed by the time his cries reach you. Usually by the time a child’s cries reach the parent he’s already gone through a series of anxious reactions. The initial part of waking up and being alone, then waiting for the parent’s attention, then probably some mild stress and crying which would be easier to comfort then finally full stressful cries that reach the parent. By this time can make it more difficult for him to calm down quickly.
- What you can do: If you want you can give your child access to get out of bed and come to you during the night. If your child wakes up during the night and needs reassurance he can simply come over to your room and will usually fall asleep without too much fuss. If you can’t do that then try to install a baby monitor so you can hear his initial cries, give him a couple of minutes to settle himself back to sleep. If you feel he is reaching that stressful point then try to go comfort him. You can first try by just being at the doorway so your child doesn’t try to get out of bed and offer reassurance that you are there and can hear him. If that isn’t comforting enough then try standing by your child’s bed, offer reassurance and remind him softly that it’s time for bed. It will take a few times till your child develops a pattern of secure experiences and feels OK when he wakes up alone.
Suggested Bedtime Routine
- Try to have a similar routine every night. Not only is the routine important but it’s important to stick to the time schedule so that your child’s biological clock gets used to it. Remember that your child is still growing so his sleep routines and patterns will need adjusting. He may need to wake up earlier or need to stop napping to sleep through the night.
- Give your child a heads up that bedtime is after your last evening activity; dinner, playtime, etc.
- Make sure the TV is off and the house is quiet within the hour before bedtime. Most importantly make sure you are calm and not rushed. Children can pick up easily on adults’ emotions.
- You can give a warm bath or read a story in bed before bedtime to calm down your child. Each child is different, you need to figure out which activity calms your child best.
- Spend a few minutes next to your child just lying there. Make sure bedtime is as boring as possible. Put away any toys or distractions from the bed. You can try humming some songs or softly speaking to your child about his day. This can help him relax and fall asleep.
- Make sure your child has his favorite security toy next to him in case he wakes up or leave the door open. Use which ever method you choose that works best to help him fall back asleep. If you don’t mind letting him come to your bed at night then make sure he can easily get out of his own bed and walk to your room if he wakes up.
- Remember be consistent and patient. If you give in that sends a message to your child that if he whines or cries long enough then he gets his way. It can be hard and exhausting, try to approach each day with a new perspective, there could be a different reason why he’s having trouble going to bed. Figuring out the problem can help you save time and energy to avoid a power struggle and bedtime tears.
Suggested Bedtime Reading
Goodnight moon is a classic and the perfect book for bedtime. Say goodnight to everything in little rabbit’s room; the mittens, the mouse, the porridge and the moon. You can include your own goodnights to things in your child’s own room or people who were with you in your day.
Photo from isayx3
Article reference from Mayo Clinic
Every parent reaches their wits end when dealing with children’s misbehavior. Just remember that your child isn’t “out to get you”, there are often very explainable and preventable reasons for misbehavior.
The most common reasons for misbehavior are:
1. Your child’s basic needs aren’t being met, he is tired, cranky or hungry which makes all his emotions magnified and little problems difficult to handle.
- What you can do: make sure your child is fed and rested before venturing out. Make sure you don’t skip a meal or your child’s nap time. It can take some compromise on your part as a parent to make sure you’re child finds a place to take his nap while you’re out but it will make both of you happy in the long term.
2. Seeking attention, your child may be trying to get your attention and learned that getting attention through misbehavior is easier and more effective.
- What you can do: Try to ignore unwanted attention seeking behavior as long as your child isn’t harming himself or others. Make sure you praise positive behavior so your child realizes there is an alternative way to get your attention. With repetition your child will learn he can do positive things instead of misbehaving to get your attention.
3. Displaying inadequacy,children who feel inadequate will refuse to try new things and give up easily.
- What you can do: Offer your child encouragement when approaching a task. Use encouraging words and phrases like “you can do it!”. Try to offer your child toys or activities that are within your child’s developmental abilities with a bit of challenge to help in learn but not cause frustration. Remember to give him the space and independence to do it on his own but be close by in case he asks for help.
4. Controlling, children who want to be in control refuse to follow direct requests, lash out when reprimanded and refuse to do what their parents request.
- What you can do: Don’t get yourself into a power struggle, simply state expectations and consequences in advance. If your child does not follow through (cleaning up) then follow with the consequence (can’t go out to play). With repetition and time your child will learn to avoid consequences with minimal conflict. As a parent make sure you do not insist on everything as well. It’s best to keep firm rules down to a few that mainly have to do with safety like crossing the street or not touching the oven. This gives you room to compromise and revisit other rules as your child grows and has different developmental needs and capabilities.
5. Revenge seeking behavior is when your child shows mean behavior like saying “i don’t love you” or breaking another child’s toy. This behavior reflects that your child feels he has no value or little worth.
- What you can do: There is usually an underlying reason why children lash out with hurtful words and phrases. Sometimes a simple incident like leaving a birthday before seeing the clown can seem like the end of the world for your child with such intense emotions. The best way to handle this is to avoid consequences that might be viewed as retaliation, instead help him make amends like fixing the friend’s toy or make sure to explain why you had to leave the birthday at that time and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Most importantly remind your child that you LOVE him even when he is misbehaving. This can be hard but will help him stop acting out for revenge.
Photo from 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