It seems to me the rules of each discipline strategy get more and more complicated each year. From time outs on the “naughty step” to groundings and reward charts, it all seems so inauthentic and unnatural, like we are disciplining from a book rather than our hearts, our instincts.
“You got to move two places up the reward chart, but lost 5 places for hitting your sister, and gained another 3 for picking up your toys.”
“You have to sit in time out for 4 minutes but since you stepped out of the spot you have to start all over again. Do you even remember why you are there?? Better explain that again hadn’t I…”
Most discipline strategies these days, advise giving the child a warning to give the child a chance to repair their errant ways before the preferred punishment is implemented. This is basically the parents way of saying, “Do what I say right now or you will pay.”
I have a problem with all of these discipline strategies, for the simple reason that each of them put you the parent, in the position of being the unbending authoritarian, while the child falls to the position of a powerless victim. Using any of these strategies creates sides within the family, which is the worst thing you can do if you want your child to really listen to you and to confide in you. Discipline doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to harm your relationship with your child and make you the baddy. Here are my top 3 tips for simple and harmonious parenting –
The option which has the biggest impact when it comes to your child following your rules, but is unfortunately the most overlooked, is to simply focus your energy, not on the behaviour or the punishment, but on building your connection to each other. You know your child better than anyone else. If they are acting in a way that you find unacceptable, look deeper than the surface. What is really the issue here? Are they hungry, hot, tired, overstimulated, crying out for attention? Figure out their needs and do the best you can to meet them. This will help alleviate any problem at the source.
A connected child who knows you will always meet his needs, rather than sweep them under the carpet, whilst throwing in a punishment for good measure, will be much more likely to listen to you, respect you and follow your instructions.
If you want your child to be empathetic, tidy, caring, creative, fill in the blank, then the best way you can do this is to guide them, by being a great role model in doing these things yourself. A child will only do as we do, rather than just doing what we tell them to do. They are always watching you, soaking up every little thing they see. If you shout at your child, it makes sense that they will then shout back at you and at others. If you take things away from them in anger, they will learn to snatch. But it works both ways. If you are gentle with them, always have time to listen, are polite to people and help others, they will copy, and these behaviours will become ingrained in them. Give them something worth copying!
Stop controlling, start guiding
It is very easy to get into the habit of nagging and controlling. Each time you feel you are about to reprimand your child for something, remember that the world is a new and exciting place for them. Everything they do is a learning experience and when you tell them to stop, they have to fight an incredible urge to explore, touch, taste, discover. Think about why you are asking them to stop. Is it dangerous? Are you sure? For example, running across a busy road is definitely a yes, but what about climbing on a windowsill? Children are much more capable than we give them credit for. Give them a bit of freedom and trust that their intentions are good. If you feel that you are constantly moving your child away from things, why not change tactics and move the things away from the child? Store away breakables and anything that could cause harm, then let them have their freedom. By saving the times where you have to assert your control over your child for the occasions where it is truly necessary, they will be much more likely to listen and accept what you say.
Parenting doesn’t have to be full of complex rules and strategies. It can be so simple and enjoyable if we cut out all the complications and just focus on loving this amazing little person.
Start today. Forget all the techniques you have heard about, the tricks and advice from the experts, turn off Supernanny and listen to your heart. When something happens, take a few deep breaths and ground yourself. Then think, am I focusing on connection and guidance, or punishment and revenge? Listen to your instincts and know that your child is a loving and curious little person who is fascinated by the world and constantly learning. Bring the joy back to your parenting!
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