Have you ever had one of those moments when your child has made you so angry, you could pull your hair out? At one time or another, I think all of us have. Although most of us know children are prone to making mistakes, that doesn’t excuse the fact that little Johnny just squirted catchup all over his sister’s hair.
It’s at these moments when the goal of discipline should be understood. Simply put, the goal of discipline is to teach. This can be really difficult because of the other challenges we face. As a parent, we never seem to have a lot of time for ourselves, we may be tired after a long day at work, or we may be so angry that’s it’s hard to think straight.
No matter what you use for discipline (timeouts for example) there are two keys.
- Make sure whatever consequences you employ are age appropriate. Sometimes, we use anger to fuel the discipline. It’s kind of like placing jet fuel in an automobile. In other words, it isn’t a good idea. For example, if your four year old misbehaves, giving him/her a 4 minute time out is age appropriate. Placing the child in his/her room for an hour simply isn’t age appropriate. Parents who do the later are typically using that tool to gain a personal break or garner a bit of revenge for the child’s behavior.
- Make sure you are pressing the right “buttons.” This is a real key. It means using consequences in such a way that the child gets the message. A simple example would be when a child isn’t eating their dinner. For some children, it doesn’t do any good for a parent to keep repeating the phrase “Eat your dinner” or threatening an early bedtime. Instead, try breaking out the child’s favorite ice cream and eating a little bit in front of him. When disbelief sets in on his/her face, offer the ice cream to him/her after they finish their dinner. Keep in mind the ice cream trick will only work if that’s one of your child’s buttons. A parent should have a collection of “buttons” to achieve consistent discipline. It may be useful for parents to write the “buttons” on paper in order to bring them to the forefront of their mind.
The point of disciplining children again is to teach. Some children respond to negative consequences such as time outs and early bedtimes while others do not. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box while being age appropriate, find the hot button for your child, and apply it in order to teach the behaviors you are looking for. I have worked with over 400 children. When utilized correctly, this system has never failed in teaching strong discipline measures to very difficult children.
All my best to you and your family!