Whenever we ask our parents in school for suggestions on topics to discuss during Parenting Seminars, discipline always comes up. In school and at home, we want our children to not just hear us but we want them to LISTEN to what we are saying. In one of our Yaya Seminars, we shared the following tips and these are things we also strive to practice in both the classroom and in our home.
- Get down– Stoop, kneel or get a small chair to sit on so you are eye to eye with your child. When you talk to your child standing up and looking down at him or her feels more threatening. Chances are, your child won’t even be able to look up at you for the entire time that you are talking. Going down your child’s height allows you to connect with him or her so she’s more receptive to what you have to say.
- I messages– Talk about how you are feeling as opposed to what the child did to avoid making the child feel he is all to blame. Try saying “I feel sad when you talk that way to Mommy.” as opposed to “You are so disrespectful”.
- Label Not – Even we, as adults, don’t like being judged and given negative titles. Children too, would benefit if we focus on the act rather than the person. Say “It’s not time to be running around the room” as opposed to “You are so rowdy and noisy!”
- Be firm – Practicing positive discipline does not mean giving in or being passive all the time. Children need to know you mean business by using a firm tone when explaining consequences and correcting bad behavior.
- Use the positive – They say our brains cannot process the negative as well as the positive. When talking to children, it is better to highlight what you want to happen rather that what you are trying to avoid. For example say, “Walk only please.” rather than saying “Don’t run!”
- Acknowledge what your child wants – Children also want to be listened to. Instead of shutting down what your child is asking for, acknowledge it before you suggest something else. Try saying “Yes, I know you want to play. We can play tomorrow. Right now, you need to sleep.”
- Settle down – A child cannot be expected to listen when he or she is crying or throwing a tantrum. Before you say your piece, calm the child down. In school we say “I need you to stop crying because I cannot understand what you’re trying to tell me. I want to help but I cannot help you if while you’re crying.” Calming down is not only for the child but for the adult as well. Yelling angrily rattles the child and closes up the ears. Take a moment to breathe and talk when you are ready to do so in a calm, moderate voice.
- Sweet and Simple – Young children are still learning how to pay attention for prolonged periods of time. When talking to your child, be brief, use appropriate words and get straight to the point.
Moms, experts, relatives will all have their share of tips. Some they have probably read about, researched on or tried with their own children. At the end of the day, you know your child and one way may work for you that doesn’t work for another. It won’t hurt to try a variety of ways to get your child to really listen. What’s most important to remember is to be a listener too. Model how it is to really attend to what your child is saying so she would know how good it feels to be listened to.