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Am I ‘Too Tough’ When I Discipline My Kids?

lable kidsI’ve noticed that the more sternly I speak to my kids — for example, after they’ve run into the street without looking  the more distraught they get. How can I make sure they understand the seriousness of certain situations without making them feel worse?
– Zoe

As the saying goes, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” When your child’s safety is at risk — whether he’s run into the street, reached for an open flame, or gotten dangerously close to a pool — yelling, screaming, or crying out is a perfectly normal (and necessary!) response. After all, at that moment, you would do anything possible to get your child’s attention and get him out of harm’s way.

After an episode like this, it’s natural for kids to cry — and for you to want to apologize. But the truth is, your kids are likely crying in response to the fear and urgency in your voice, not because you’ve been “too stern.” At times like these, it’s OK to comfort them without apologizing. Give your child a hug and say something like, “I know you’re upset. But what you did was dangerous and I was scared that you were going to get hurt. You must never do that again.” Punishing kids after an event like this is usually not necessary, since they’ve probably learned their lesson.

On the other hand, there are times when being too stern — like yelling regularly for minor offenses — can backfire. Kids can become immune to parents’ overblown reactions and fail to take them seriously. If you feel yourself getting into this habit, take a deep breath before responding to your child’s behavior and ask yourself, “Am I about to overreact?” If so, walk away for a few minutes and come back when you’ve calmed down.

In general, when it comes to disciplining kids, it’s best to speak with a low, firm voice and to keep your focus on the behavior, not the child. It’s also helpful to use natural consequences whenever possible. That means if your child has thrown a toy, ask her to pick it up. If she’s taken something from her sibling, ask her to return it. If she chooses not to comply, an age-appropriate timeout or other consequence should follow, despite tearful pleas. Consistency is the key to effective discipline, and giving in to a child’s tears may inadvertently reinforce negative behavior.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2010

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Smart ways to discipline your child at every age

The boring old ways do not work on our kids anymore. Training and disciplining your kid is more challenging than ever, and special tactics are needed at every age. Read on for unique ways to putting your defiant little one in his place.

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It was impossible to think about your precious newborn ever turning into a sassy, defiant toddler, but we all know it happens-even to the sweetest, most congenial children. Hey-we all have our off days, right?

When your toddler begins this type of behavior, you may as well resign yourself that you are in for these episodes every now and again until they reach the age of… being out on their own. And then they still won’t listen to you all the time (take it from a mom who knows). Don’t despair, though. There are effective and age-appropriate ways to handle their misbehavior in such a way that they will think twice before repeating the offence. Okay, so maybe it will take a third, fourth or fifth ‘think’ before they catch on. The point is that they do eventually catch on… as long as you handle their discipline/punishment appropriately.

Toddlers

First of all, a baby under the age of 10-12 months should never be disciplined beyond the repeated ‘no’ and slap on the hands to teach them the necessity of not touching breakables, things that can burn or harm them in other ways and not putting things in their mouth that could possibly choke them or be poisonous.

Once they reach that toddler stage, however, you will need to be prepared to discipline your child. You need to remember, though, that a toddler’s defiance is usually the result of another problem. They may be scared, ill or simply not understand what is expected of them. They may also feel overwhelmed at their surroundings. And then, yes, there are those who are simply testing their boundaries because that’ what they feel needs to be done.

For whatever reason, the first step toward discipline needs to be deflection. Try to deflect them away from the situation by drawing their attention to something positive. This will work much of the time, but when it doesn’t try one of the following:

  • Remove the toddler from the situation
  • Gently, but firmly holding them on your lap; speaking to them calmly, reassuringly but firmly stating what is expected of them
  • Short periods of ‘time out’-one minute for every year old they are
  • Taking away the item (toy, book, etc.) that is causing the problem

Preschoolers

Once your children reach their preschool years, they are more aware of right vs. wrong and can be held accountable for their actions. Again, the discipline should be age-appropriate and fit the ‘crime’.

It is also important to remember that children this age are eager to copy your actions and will often times do things like mummy and daddy (putting on makeup, going through the tool box, cooking, mopping the floor, etc.) to be helpful (or so they think). At times like this, it is better not to discipline or punish. They honestly didn’t see any wrong-doing in their actions.

The behaviors of a preschooler that need disciplinary action include:

  • Hitting
  • Not sharing
  • Bullying
  • Lying, cheating
  • Sassing and arguing
  • Disobedience

Proper discipline for a preschooler’s misdeeds includes:

  • Talking with your child about their misdeeds; why it was wrong, what they need to do to make retribution and not repeating the offense
  • Time out
  • Removing your child from the situation
  • Withholding a favorite toy, television time or another privilege for their misbehavior

Elementary aged children

  • Elementary aged children are at an age when they are beginning to think for themselves more and more. And with this thinking for themselves comes a fight for independence.

It’s important to allow them a certain amount of independence, but at the same time, you need to teach independence within boundaries and with respect for those boundaries and authority. This is done by allowing them to spread their wings a bit via overnights with friends, earning an allowance and allowing them to spend part of it as they choose, making choices in regards to what they wear, what activities they participate in (within reason) and to pursue a hobby of their choosing.

When your child does act out, however, the appropriate disciplinary measures include:

  • Loss of privileges
  • An act of kindness for every act of unkindness or disrespect
  • Additional chores
  • Verbally expressing their acknowledgement of their wrong doing and asking forgiveness

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Older Children

As your children grow and mature, their need and desire for independence, expressing their own thoughts, feelings and discovering who they are is both natural and important. But this time of discovery, like every other phase of their life, needs to be handled with lots of firm but gentle love and care.

It is important that you allow your children to grow their own passions and interests, that they are allowed to grow and mature at their own pace-as long as it is within the boundaries and expectations of your household.

If they do-no, when they do need discipline, the most acceptable forms of discipline include:

  • Loss of privileges
  • Loss of allowance
  • Extra household chores
  • An act of kindness for every act of unkindness
  • Loss of items that are near and dear to them; IPOD, computer, etc.

Remember what discipline is

Discipline is meant to teach appropriate behaviour and to instill the fact that for every action there is a consequence. Discipline is not meant to humiliate, cause pain nor is it to be used as ‘payback’. In other words, discipline in firm and gentle love and with the intention of teaching your child how life is to be lived rather than using it as a control mechanism.

 

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Read Aloud Tips

 Find a time to read when you can both relax and enjoy it – try bedtime, nap time, snack time, after dinner.

 Get comfortable. Find a cozy spot to read and make sure the TV and other distractions are off.

 Read the book or story yourself before you read it to your child.

 If your child doesn’t like a book, switch to another. If he or she isn’t in the mood, stop reading and try again later.

 Go to the library with your children regularly. Ask the librarian to recommend books and book lists. Get your children their own library cards.

 Build a home collection of books. Shop at garage and book sales. Trade books with friends

 Encourage your children to look at books on their own. Let them take books to bed and read themselves to sleep,but don’t ask questions.

 You don’t have to be a great reader, just read from the heart.

 Make it fun. It’s not a lesson.

 Talk about the stories with your child, but don’t ask questions.

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Learn how you can develop the same love for Maths for your Child at MathsExCEL

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