ACHIEVING EFFECTIVE DISCIPLINE
By Tammy Noteboom
…………… I knew before I gave birth that parenting would be a challenge. What I didn’t know is that the solutions to those challenges would change. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, Ben moves onto a different stage and I need to change my discipline methods. And for those of you with than one child, the methods not only differ for each age, they differ for each child.
** Discipline is a controversial word among parenting experts. Some see it as negative and would like it banned from our parenting vocabulary. Others, like Victoria Johannes-Schmitz, M.S., family therapist and regional director at The Village Family Service Center’s Elk River, Minnesota, office, have a different view. "Discipline is exactly the right word. The word discipline comes from ‘to disciple,’ which means ‘to teach.’ That is exactly what we should be doing with our children? teaching them acceptable guidelines for how to behave now and in the future? teaching them right from wrong."
WHY CHILDREN MISBEHAVE To teach and guide our children, we must understand the reasons behind their misbehavior, which usually have to do with their age, stage and temperament. There are nearly as many reasons for children’s misbehavior as there are children. However, Ellen Anderson, training department supervisor at Moorhead’s Child Care Resource and Referral, gives us some common reasons for misbehavior:
** The child is at an age or stage where he needs to test the limits of his own control.
She is stressed or overwhelmed by a hectic schedule.
He is tired, hungry, bored, curious, frustrated or over-stimulated.
He is facing a traumatic event such as the birth of a new sibling, divorce, move to a new home or parental hostility.
** Children also misbehave to get attention. If they’re not getting their parents attention through praise and positive feedback, they get it through misbehavior and negative feedback. Kids are attention-seeking entities, says Rachel Fleissner, M.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist at Psychiatric Medical Associates in Fargo. For most children, any attention is better than none. If they don’t get attention by being good, they will go for the negative.
BE CONSISTENT Every parenting expert I talked with said their most important advice for parents is to be consistent. Johannes-Schmitz says kids do best when parents are consistent with their rules and expectations. "Kids need to be able to form a sense of trust. They need to trust that what you tell them today will be the same today, tomorrow and next month. If you say ‘no’ five times and then give in, you are teaching your child to badger you."
Fleissner agrees. "Most of us respond to our children based on our mood. Whether you’re in a good mood or bad mood, and no matter where you are, be consistent with the punishment you give for the crime. If you are consistent there will be less trouble in the long run." …………………..
** POSITIVE PARENTING Our society is great at telling kids what they do wrong. They hear it in the media, at school, at home and from other kids. It is our job to provide them with the encouragement and praise they need to excel.
Fleissner says, "If you only say negative things, there is very little reason for your child to listen to you. If you praise them they’ll think, ‘hey, if I listen to my dad I might hear something good.’ Always, always look for the good in your child, and then tell them you noticed."
Praise, however, must be real. Kids are brighter than we give them credit for and can see right through false praise. "Then," Johannes-Schmitz says, "the true praise won’t have as much punch.
** "I give parents the five to one rule. Kids need to hear five pieces of positive feedback for every time they hear ‘no’ or criticism. Find very small things to praise them about, even it’s just that they brushed their teeth or didn’t argue with their brother for the last 10 minutes."
Nancy Frosaker-Johnson, Clay County Extension Educator, says we can often turn a negative into a positive if we just stop and think. Instead of saying, "Johnny, don’t run!" say, "Johnny, please walk!" Instead of, "Missy, don’t take your hat off!" try "Missy, please leave your hat on your head." Even better is when you catch your child behaving appropriately to say, "Johnny, thank you for walking," or "Missy, thank you for leaving your hat on your head."
It is also important to be proactive–plan ahead for situations that tend to be difficult for your child. …………………………………..
Fleissner insists that positive parenting will, on a good day, ensure that you get respect and cooperation from your child. "That’s only a good day. You’ll never get it on a bad day!"
WHAT ABOUT THE BAD DAYS? No matter how much we read about parenting?no matter how well we follow the "parenting rules," we will have bad days. On the bad days, Johannes-Schmitz encourages us to offer choices and use logical and natural consequences.
It is critical to give your child the power to make decisions about what will happen. "Anytime a person makes a choice, whether he is two or 82, there are consequences. Kids need to learn this. They are much more apt to have lasting learning if they are given the power to make some choices."
When your child makes a wrong choice, allow him to experience natural and logical consequences. These are consequences that are logically or naturally connected to his behavior. For example, if he refuses to wear his mittens outside, his hands will get cold. If she forgets to put her bike away, then she’s not allowed to ride it.
If the natural consequences are too dangerous, like when your child runs out in the street, you’ll need to be real creative. If you have trouble with these, see the sample consequences on page 20, or check out some parenting books at the library. Most parenting books provide good examples on the use of logical and natural consequences.
Tammy Noteboom is a mother of an eight-year-old son and the marketing and communications director at The Village
Family Service Center in Fargo.