In school, my patience is steadfast and long. At home, it’s a little bit more challenging. When I lose my temper and shout, my heart is crushed and I regret having made my child cry. More so, because the shouting rattles my child, she is not able to understand what I am trying to teach her. My shouting was in vain and I’ve hurt my child.
Parents often ask for ways to better manage child behavior. In all honesty, I don’t remember if we had a specific class for positive discipline but our professors have done such a good job of instilling such practices that it really comes so easily when we relate to our kids in school.
Based on the works of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikur, Dr. Jane Nelsen wrote books on Positive Discipline. In these books, she advocates mutual respect between parent and child. Below are a couple of things we try to remember
- Redirect – When asking a child to stop doing one thing, it’s often best to give an alternative. In school, when a child is attempting to climb up the shelves, we ask her to come down and preoccupy her with another activity such as jumping over blocks.
- Expect social correctness – As we practice redirecting behavior, so should we also practice being firm about behavior that is really not acceptable. If a child hits, hold her arm and explain that this is not a nice thing to do. Give and model proper behavior. In this case, say and show how to use gentle hands. If the child hits again, go ahead and take the child away and give a logical consequence.
- Focus on what you want to happen – Instead of saying “Don’t stand on the table!” say “Feet on the floor please.” Doing this brings your child’s attention to the next action. They say the mind cannot really process the negative so all your child might have heard is “Stand on the Table!”
- Anticipate – Know your child’s likes, needs and schedule. If you know she usually gets hungry at around 4 and you have to be at the grocery at that time, bring a snack. If you know your child gets sleepy at around 8, start winding down before then so she’s not tired and cranky as you put her to sleep.
- Give choices – During Snack Time, if a child would refuse to eat, give her choices, For example, ask her whether she’d rather eat a slice of orange or a cracker. Giving her something to think about takes her mind away from not wanting to eat to choosing what to eat.
- Don’t set yourself up – Refrain from asking yes or no questions because your child might just tell you no when you really wanted her to answer yes. For example, if you ask “Do you want to take a bath?” and she answers “” what do you do? Instead, direct the behavior and say. “It’s time for a bath.” It sends the message that it is non- negotiable and you are going to follow through no matter what.
- Understand the behavior – Know your child and ask questions. Perhaps, the bad behavior is brought about by negative feelings that a child needs to talk about. Once we had a child refuse to come in for enrichment. She cried and insisted she be brought home. In the coming days, I visited this child in her regular preschool class to ask what had happened and how she was. Long story short, she expressed sadness and anxiety because her yaya since birth had left abruptly. Turns out, the child needed help processing her feelings. As soon as she was able to express herself and had help labeling what she was feeling, she was more than ready to attend her enrichment classes.
- Non negotiable – Sometimes there’s no explanation for the bad behavior. Sometimes a child would really just rather play than go to sleep when asked. In such cases, be firm with what has to be done and expect compliance.
Positive discipline, as many misunderstand it, is not about being permissive. On the contrary, it believes that discipline can be enforced but in a kind, mutually respectful manner. Have rules and enforce them rather than expecting children to behave without proper guidelines. Give logical consequences rather than severe punishment. Encourage attempts at good behavior rather than putting down the child with undesirable labels.