I may write for hours and end up with tens of pages. And I may lose you along the way. So, if you are going to remember one thing, it is this: Positive discipline.
What is positive discipline and why is it important? Before I answer the question, I would like to ask you what you think is one of the most common ways we teach our children or reinforce a behavior? If you answered punishment, you are right. And if I was to tell you that punishment is one of the most detrimental ways we can teach with, I would be right. Take it from your own experience. Whether at work or in life, the power of being uplifted when praised and recognized is felt and pushes us forward like no other. Further, the strength and impact of being understood, encouraged and helped when we make a mistake pushes us forward, makes us more comfortable and more confident. It also eases the tension and fear of making a mistake and improves our self-esteem. This happens whether at work or in our relationships. It even happens when we talk to ourselves. With kids, it is that much more important. Whey?
Because we are their parents, they look up to us, they want to impress us and they NEED our approval. Tell me outside your relationship with your partner, when does this ever happen or exist?
So, talk it easy, and we all want to encourage our children. But how do we do that without pulling our hair when they do something not so…positive? Well, the first thing that is always suggested is recognize good behavior. This means being vigilant and observant. This is key to reinforcing, encouraging and sustaining good behavior. It does not have to be saving a life, anything that the children will do on their own that is considered a good behavior is to be commended. Catch them by surprise and you will also be rewarded, because nothing outs a smile on a child’s face like parent’s love and appreciation. If you doubt that, think about your own childhood experiences. Child psychologists offer these tips depending on the age group:
Up until around 3 years of age, when children start to understand that their actions have consequences and that they can move and are in command of their body, use the word “no” less, and instead, catch them and offer options. Instead of no, or yanking their hands or slapping them away, divert their attention and talk to them nicely and calmly. Say things like “Let us look here…or do this…”…What about time outs? Time outs are sometimes encouraged, they should be brief though, not hours. They offer a chance to break the child’s behavior, reboot their brains and for you to calm down and give you a break. Ideally, they should be for around 2 to 3 minutes. Be encouraging always, and be patient. Easier said than done, I know.
As they grow older, the first thing that is recommended is to try and understand the meaning behind the behavior. Whatever your child is doing, it is for a purpose. Whether playing, exploring, throwing a tantrum, pushing limits, understanding their own abilities, they have a method to their madness. By understanding why, you minimize friction and tension and you are less angry. Think about the many times your child did something that makes you scratch your head, and the next time, stop and look around and try to understand. You again need to encourage the positive way, and above all be firm. You decide your rules and their rigidity. Be consistent, be firm and be loving. Encourage and support! When you can, redirect their energy, do not bribe them and drain their energy!!!
In the tween or preteen era, the madness is coming, you cannot change that. The children are getting to be focused on their peers, not you. So to avoid disaster and communication breakdown, strengthen your relationship with them, and develop your understanding with them. Keep a steady tone, minimize punishing, and understand that they “want to break free”. We did!
The teenage years are perhaps the most demanding on them and us. For that, again positive discipline, trust and support are needed. The balance is fine. They are trying to be independent and you want to support that while protecting them. SO long talks, negotiations and making them understand your points of views is always key. The answers of “no” and “will not allow” without explanations and clarifications is disrespectful to them, and you will lose your child quickly. Support, and trust and protect. Minimize confrontations and understand that what you mean is not always how they understand it. Why? Because they are teenagers.
In the end, we are their best hop, and supporting them and encouraging them and loving them with the best positive attitude is the greatest gift we give them.