For most parents, “Do as I say” may be one of the most-applied methods of disciplining children, but it is not as easy as it sounds. Because when you’re rushing out the door to day care or staying in at home as a family on the weekends, a mundane moment with the little ones can quickly transform into a complete power struggle. The brief, peaceful afternoon can soon become a day full of fits and yelling.
This is the disciplinary arms race many parents enter every day. There are no clear winners—only sore throats, uncontainable temperament, spiraling blood pressure, and hurt feelings. Instilling discipline does not always have to be a battle. There are effective ways to teach children how to behave without enticements, threats, screaming, and physicality.
Below are tips that can help set every parent on the path to better behavior at home and wherever.
Do Not Bribe, but Also Remember to Reward Every Now and Then
Yes, it is tempting to offer the child sweets or anything that can help ease the situation, but there is a danger to this gesture. Constant bribes may send the wrong signal. Kids may understand this as a parent’s way of paying them off even if they are not very good. Instead, the best reward is to ensure quality time. Do not forget to allot time to play with children, to listen to them, and to express how much they are loved.
With that said, are parents then absolutely prohibited from rewarding their children? In some cases, children may be given a toy or favorite food as a way to show them they are valued. However, this should not be done when they’re throwing a fit.
When they feel like the child needs uplifting, parents can get custom award ribbons, which can be a modern take on gold-star stickers. Give this to signify little wins, like behaving well during a visit to Grandma’s, tidying up the room, or even helping out with some simple chores.
Always Understand What Goes Into the Behavior
The most important thing to note when disciplining children is that, whatever they do, it is not without a valid reason. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Children are children, yes, but they are also capable of processing things to a certain extent. It is the duty of parents to find out the reason behind the behavior. Once the root of the action is identified, it will be easier to remove the cause or to reconcile.
Perhaps the parent has stayed on the phone too long or has left the house without any prior notice, which may have led the child to act differently. If so, remember to weigh both sides of the story for a better understanding.
Control Yourself instead of Controlling the Child
It is not easy to keep your cool in the heat of the moment, but it also will not do any good if parents act the way their children do. Yelling begets yelling, hitting begets hitting, and so on. In the case of an intense flare-up at home, controlling oneself is often more effective than domineering over the child. This may mean taking a deep breath or walking outside until emotions have calmed.
Anger and frustration are also sources of misbehavior. There are ways to keep the voice in check in these situations. For example, parents can sing what they want to say instead of yelling it to the child. Doing this can help prevent emotional consequences from forming in the long run.
Use the Energy-Drain Tactic and Frequent Redirection
All parents are familiar with how exhausting it is when a child acts up in the most inconvenient moments. If this happens, they can use fatigue to their advantage. Using the energy-drain tactic may be in the form of saying “If you keep this up, I don’t think I’ll have the energy to go with you to the park after we eat lunch.”
If that doesn’t go well, parents can offer a positive behavior to replace the misbehavior. For example, a child acting up in the grocery store can be asked to help pick out fruits or rearrange the existing items in the grocery cart. This is the magic of redirection.
Hearing no, “Do not,” and other negative-sounding words or phrases is likely to encourage children to misbehave. Instead, see the positive in the situation to try turning things around.