It is fairly common for your child to behave inappropriately as they begin to grow and gain independence. It is necessary to discipline your child in order for them to learn to accept a set of rules, behave in an acceptable manner, respect limits of freedom (rather than having their own way) and obey you (the parents). Discipline is an action directed towards improving the individual child.
If there is a lack of discipline your child will probably lack manners, not listen to you, disobey you and frequently throw tantrums. You feel as if you are losing control as your child runs the household. This can also be said for over disciplining your child. Too much discipline can cause your child to feel insecure. That's why it is important to find a balance when disciplining your child. Your child needs to be taught discipline with firmness and loving tolerance which is an essential part of your child's emotional development.
Each and every child is different. What works for one child may not work for the other and there is no “right way” that works for every situation. Basically when it comes to discipline it is by trial and error until you figure out what works for you and your child. It is also important to remember to be consistent. Don't give up the technique you are using after a couple of days. You need to at least try it for a few weeks before you begin to see if the technique you are using actually works.
Below is a list of various discipline methods. Choose one that best fits the situation of your child's misbehavior and use it accordingly:
- Verbal and non-verbal expression of disapproval – It is important when using this method, to combine it with positive instructions on appropriate behavior. For example, “stop running inside the house, you need to walk inside the house so you don't break anything and you don't hurt yourself”. It's vital the focus should be on your child's misbehavior which should be pointed out to your child as undesirable. You should not begin shouting angrily at your child because they did something wrong.
- Learning by experience – Some types of behavior are most effectively resolved when your child learns by example rather than by negative consequences of their actions. By verbally telling your child not to do a particular thing may not be effective enough and your child will simply ignore you and continue repeating their action. However when your child experiences the negative consequence of their action, it is likely to be resolved. For example, when you go shopping with your child you tell your child to hold your hand. But instead your child runs up and down the aisles, driving you crazy. Now, once your child begins running around crazy, you can hide yourself from your child's view and when your child cannot find you they will become very anxious and begin to get upset. When you appear out from “hiding” and explain to your child why they should hold your hand, your child will not hesitate and begin holding your hand during shopping outings. Your child has learnt that if they do not hold your hand they may get lost and not be able to find you. Remember that if you are doing this technique, please make sure you supervise your child at all times and that they are also kept safe and out of danger.
- Delaying privileges – This is another effective method you can use with your child. You can delay things that your child likes until the other tasks are completed. For example, your child may like playing with Lego. You (the parent) can lay down the pre-condition saying that you will allow them to play with the Lego once they have picked up their toys off the floor in the bedroom. Similarly, if your child begins throwing toys around the room, you (the parent) should remove the toys, if your child spills water all over the table, they (the child) should clean it up etc.
- Time out – When using this technique it is very important to be consistent in order for this technique to be a success. If your child is consistently misbehaving (after receiving a warning) then you should firmly lead your child to a “time out spot” and they should remain there (only for a couple of minutes). At the beginning stages of implementing this technique, it is fairly normal for your child to create a scene once put in “timeout”. But you need to be patient and consistent. Once your child knows that when they do something undesirable, they have to go to “time out” and more often than not after the first warning your child will stop their misbehavior. When the “time out” period is over, you should welcome your child back into the social setting without mentioning or discussing of the misbehavior. However it is important to help your child learn the correct behavior and to compliment their positive behavior. When using this technique it's important for you (the parent) to stay calm and avoid lecturing and negotiating with your child. The “timeout spot” should also be isolated and not frightening for your child.
- Giving Choices – It's vital not to give your child too many choices. If you ask your child whether they would like something to eat, whether to get dressed, what clothes they would like to wear etc, you are more than likely asking for trouble because a natural instinct of your child is to say “no”. Then you will be spending your time arguing, trying to persuade your child and in the end making your child do what was necessary in the first place anyhow. So it is best not to offer your child a choice in the first place, in the form of a question. Rather limit your child's choices between two. For example, “would you like to go to the park now or in the afternoon after your nap?”, “would you like to wear your red hat or the blue one”. Remember that when you are offering your child a choice between two make sure that you are able to fulfill their request, rather than hoping they choose the “right” answer.
You should remember that when disciplining your child you can be firm as well as friendly. If you are firm when the situation arises and set consistent limits your child will understand it. Your child will begin to learn the differences between desirable and undesirable behavior. If you enforce a strict discipline, there will be too many limits placed on your child. It's important not to constantly criticize your child, give too many warnings or constantly say “no”. For example, “don't touch that”, “don't play with that” etc. It is not necessary to constantly say “no” for every little thing. This will make your child feel like whatever they do is wrong, in some way, and begin to have an effect on your child's self confidence. Rather it's important to reinforce and acknowledge your child's positive behavior rather than the negative behavior.
Remember to be consistent and have patience when dealing with your child's behavior. Also it's important to have open communication with your child and although your child did do something “wrong” they could have a reasonable explanation for it, so it's vital to allow your child to talk to you and explain to you why they did it. It's also important for you to explain to your child the correct behavior that you expect from them and more importantly focus on the good behavior...it's up to you to discipline your child in an appropriate way.