Monday, May 14, 2012

Discipline Means TO TEACH

What you do to help the child learn to control himself.

What you do to control the child. 

What kind of child do you want to have? 

If you model aggression, anger, reactionary actions, and demeaning comments toward your child then you will gain a child who is out of control, has low self-esteem and is unable to appropriately express his/her feelings. If you model calm, thoughtfulness, respect, politeness and place the child in control of their life through providing appropriate choices for them to make, then you will gain a child who is emotionally secure, responsible, confident, and in control. Mental and physical disorders aside. 

If you have a goal of the child you want to have raised at the end of age 18, then your every action and parenting choice can have a meaningful agenda.  Literally, the word discipline means to teach.

We must teach them what TO DO, 
rather than punish them for something they DID DO
often unknowingly inappropriate.

I strongly urge every parent, teacher and caregiver to check out Dr. Becky Bailey's Conscious Discipline book and website. It is, I believe, one of the best discipline techniques out there for children three and over. It is being utilized in many major school districts. I found it to be a good management philosophy in handling adult disagreements as well. 

For the younger children, though, here is my philosophy on discipline, gleaned from years as a childcare provider, parent to one half-grown and  two grown  boys, exhaustive research and trainings. Most of it applies to older children as well.
  • Keep Your Expectations Realistic. If you demand too much, your child may feel out of control and frustrated. Is it truly an important disciplinary situation, or are you just irritated?

  • Praise your child for cooperation. Don’t spend a lot of time explaining why you want them to do it, but do tell them what’s in it for them. 

  • Respond Immediately

  • Don’t over explain to toddlers. The more you engage your toddler in discussion, the more attention s/he gets from acting out. A toddler remembers the last few words they hear come out of your mouth, so make sure those are the important ones for your message. Everything that comes before that floats aimlessly off and is a waste of your breath. As they gain the ability to carry on a conversation and ask questions, then it's time to up the information.

  • Label your children's emotions for them, since they can’t do it themselves. Eventually, they will learn to label them and begin to respond appropriately.
  • Praise your child for good behavior. It will inspire them down the road. For every negative comment made by a parent or caregiver, a child really needs about 10 positive, SPECIFIC, statements to keep their confidence and self-worth at the highest level. So beware of harsh criticism. As with adults, it eats away at a person's self-esteem, and every child deserves the right to feel good about themself. 
  • Attention, some times it just takes a little from an adult to defuse a situation. 
  • Beware the television. Children who watch violent images in any manner, newscasts, parent’s movies, or cartoons, are more aggressive. Don’t think that just because they are playing in the corner that they are not picking up on what is portrayed. Research suggests that violent images, rapid movement such as in video games, and constant stimulation re-wires a child's or adult's brain, and not for the better.
  • Spanking breeds hitting. If you do it, then the child sees it an acceptable form of behavior. They will begin to hit, especially smaller children, if no smaller children are around, they may start hitting the pets. Or themselves. An aggressive household breeds aggressive children, a calm, thoughtful household breeds calm, thoughtful children. Appropriate DISCIPLINE, not punishment, is time out or the removal of a privilege, only after the child has had the opportunity to self correct the behavior and has been provided with a warning of the consequences of continuing an inappropriate choice of behavior. The exceptions being harmful or malicious behaviors such as hitting another child, which requires an immediate, firm response with the maximum time in time-out or the loss of a favorite privilege. 
  • Remember that certain stages are temporary. Biting, tantrums, yelling “no” to everything, bad language - don’t worry about them too much. Just make certain your child knows that the behavior isn’t acceptable and won’t be tolerated, but keep a calm reaction. A harsh reaction to these will simply reinforce the behavior and extend them much longer than they would normally occur. 
  • Remember that defiance is good. It means the child is secure enough in your relationship to challenge you. 
  • Accept your child’s feelings, which he cannot control. Stop the disruptive behavior, which they can learn to control. 
  • Set reasonable limits for your child’s age and needs. 
  • Establish the rules and consequences, keep them simple, keep them consistent, and respond appropriately and immediately. And YES, you will have to repeat them a few hundred times. 
  • Age and stage knowledge. Don’t expect your young child to be able to do what even teenagers can’t do: resist temptation and peer pressure, and react rather than act. Children lack full impulse control and logical reasoning into their early twenties. How many times have you yelled at the idiot who cut you off on the road, with your child in the car? That is a reaction rather than an action, and your child picks up on that. If you can’t keep your cool in all situations, just think how your child feels when they have very little cool to begin with. If you don't know what's appropriate or normal for the developmental age or stage of your child, find out. Keep your expectations in line with reason.
  • There shouldn’t be a “bad guy” syndrome. If the rules/expectations and consequences are clear, then it is the child’s choice and decision to do the unacceptable behavior and take the consequence. It should be worded in just that way.
  • Correct your child’s behavior with love and respect. Children are not born with self-control and a handbook of societal norms programmed within. They must LEARN these things. 
  • Avoid embarrassing your child. At least until the teen years. Always address the behavior as inappropriate or a poor choice, not that the child himself is bad, wrong, or anything derogatory. 
  • Avoid threats. “If you do that one more time, you’re going to time-out.” Instead: “You may go play with your toys or sit at the table and draw. If you choose to continue (misbehavior) then you will go to time-out.” This takes it from your reactionary threat to placing the responsibility for a choice upon your child. They may choose to continue with the behavior and go to time-out. Make certain they know it was their choice. 
  • Give two acceptable choices to your child, and respect the one they choose. “You may play with your blocks or your puzzle.” Don’t continue with, “Instead of sitting on your brother to get his toy.” 
  • Rules should be simple and repetitive. When a child misbehaves and needs a reminder, remember that behavior is LEARNED. It is TAUGHT by parents, caregivers, teachers and society through consistent expectations and modeling. “We sit in our seats.”  
  • Consistency. Trust and good behavior stem from consistency in routine and expectations. This includes knowing where things will be, when things will be done, and how they are to be done. As much consistency as possible between all of a child’s caregivers is important, so be sure to communicate and get on the same page. 
  • Sleep and a consistent sleep time. Children to age six need 12 hours a night. Studies have shown that everyone, adults and children, need a consistent time to go to sleep and wake up to keep their bodies in sync. This is especially true for children. The occasional holiday or special event won’t hurt them, but a daily sleep routine is a must. Sleep is the number one key to behavior issues. Children deserve to have their behavior issues be their own choices, not because of lack of sleep. 
  • Use when/then statements. “When you put your pj’s on, then we can read a book. 
  • Make “yes” fun. Make a not-so-desirable task into a game. 
  • Time-out should be given for specific behaviors or levels of behavior.Time-out should be given for hitting or other harmful behaviors, and it should be given as an option to the child when reminders, choices, or distraction haven’t worked. Children should be fully aware that they are going to time-out when they chose the behavior that will put them there. Time-out should be for one minute per age, maximum, of the child. It should be somewhere segregated, within your perimeter, and not fun. Often this is facing a corner, or for older children it is the bottom step of stairs. There should be no entertainment value in sight, including lures to abandon the position. The child should sit or stand quietly for the time allotted.  *I know there are many against ANY time-out, but it is the only option available for childcare providers [me!] to segregate a harmful or highly disruptive child from the other children in a safe manner. If a child is in a childcare setting, then consistency between home and school is important. 
The first stage of child development is the first year, where the infant learns trust, that the world is a safe place to be and their needs get met. 

The second stage is ages 1-3, where the child learns to be independent and to control him/herself. One of the reasons for the “terrible two’s” is due to the child coming to the realization that what they have been told they “can’t” do, is actually stuff that they can do, only adults won’t let them. Most of it is stuff that they really want to do, also. Like throwing things, hitting things, climbing, taking really cool toys from other children and exploring away from the grown ups. When they get away with these behaviors, even once, they realize that, "Not only can I do it, but I just might get away with it." One study states that for every time a child gets away with an inappropriate behavior, s/he will attempt it a minimum of ten more times, even if every one of those other ten times they receive correction. This is the time period where it is most important that the child have consistency in expectations and consequences.

The third stage is ages 3-5, where a child plans and does tasks. They have a need to belong. Children at this stage need to be taught and be responsible for tasks such as folding washcloths, putting away some of the dishes, choosing items for dinner, setting the table, and helping with pets.
 They are also cognitively capable of helping to create rules and consequences, and to understand the reasoning behind them. Often, when given the task, they will create consequences for their own inappropriate behavior much more severe than an adult would.  

Lastly - lying is not cognitively active until the age of 8. At age 6 you can begin to start your child questioning their statements, such as "Is that real or make-believe?" Until the age of 6, lying is simply wishful thinking/story telling. The child does not have control over it. They do it because they truly want it to be the way they say, to keep out of trouble, or to make you happy. They will also alter their thought processes so that they ACTUALLY BELIEVE that is what happened. Once again, you can not punish a child for something they have no control over. Lying is NOT LYING until age 6-8. Let it go. However, there does need to be an appropriate response to inappropriate behavior. "There are crayon marks on the wall, so the crayons have to be in time-out for a week." (denied writing on wall) "Your friend is crying because you were not a nice friend, so you have to go into time-out." (denied pushing/hitting/taking toy) Story telling, "I have a pet lion," should simply be encouraged. "Really, what color is he? Does he eat a lot of meat?" Imaginary friends, etc. should be thoughtful encouraged as your child explores their emerging imagination and learns the intricacies of using it in all it's many colors. One of these is the black and white thing that adults view as lying.

Tags: lying, children, development, discipline, punishment, toddler, preschool, childcare, daycare, parenting, parent, girl, boy, rules, consistency, behavior, tantrums, child, limits

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