When our babies become toddlers they realize that they are a separate person from us, their parents. They develop their own will and sense of self. This is a good thing, however, the challenge lies in finding the balance between allowing our kids to be their own person and falling in line with what is expected of them.
We need to exercise discipline for the sake of everyone, so that home life runs smoothly and so that our kids grow up with respect for themselves, for others and for their environment. Using physical force or even forcing your will on a child is just not that way to go. It doesn’t work – in fact it does more harm than good.
Here are some ways to discipline your kids using your words and clever body language.
1. Settle Your Child
If your child is upset and you’re trying to give them a set of instructions they simply won’t be able to listen to you. Don’t jump in to give orders when your child is upset. Wait with them until the crying has calmed down and then try to address the topic.
2. Start by Saying “I WANT”
Rather than just giving an order like “Stand up” try, ” I want you to stand up.” Instead of “Leave your sister’s hair alone” try, ” I want you to leave your sister’s hair alone.” This works well for children who don’t like to be ordered around. You are asking for their co-operation by appealing to their emotions and they are more likely to agree.
3. Walk Before You Talk
Instead of yelling from across the room or worse still from one room to another (we all do it), walk to wherever your child is and deliver your request face to face. Remember you are the one that has got to model good behavior. If they see you yelling all the time they’ll do the same thing in years to come with their own kids.
4. Connect Before You Talk
There’s no point in asking your kids to do anything for you if you have your back to them, or you’re in another room. Make your way to where they are and face them, getting down to their level. Make sure they give you full eye contact while you speak to them. If the T.V is switched on in the background put it on pause until the conversation is over. Kids have a short attention span and they get engrossed in what they are doing. It’s very important to make sure they are full participants in the conversation by eliminating all distractions and making sure you are both face to face.
5. Use the Right Language
It can be really helpful to address a problem with a “when” and “then” solution. So for example, if you want your child to go upstairs and tidy their room but they want to go to their friends house – rather than simply laying down the law “Tidy your room now” you could try ” When you have finished tidying your room, of course you can go to your friends house.” Saying “when you tidy….” is preferable to saying “If you tidy…” as the former implies that you expect the job to be done. You are asserting your authority in a nice way that reduces the likely hood of a battle.
6. Give Attractive Choices
If your child wants something you’re not in a position to give – give them another option “You can’t go to the park today but we can go ice skating.” Although it’s not what they want to hear this is better than a flat out “No.”
7. Keep it Short
There’s really no need to ramble on when you are disciplining you kids. Keep it short and to the point for very small kids. Watch how they play with each other – they only string a few words together at a time – try to do the same. When you see your kids eyes glaze over as you continue to talk -you have lost them – they are no longer listening. Teenagers on the other hand regard too much of this type of conversation as nagging.
8. Message Them
You can leave little notes around for your kids or use messenger or text older kids. I’ve tried this and it works a treat. “I want you to do one hour of study and then we can have some of that pie we got at the store.” My teenager loved it when sent him a request by text and it worked! Kids love finding notes around the house for them. I also write “Eat Me” on their bananas and draw a little face. Sometimes they just prefer to get a break from our voices.
9. End the Conversation
If something has been decided – little Jonny is not going to the mall on his own – then end the conversation and leave it at that. If you mean business then use a tone of voice that conveys that sentiment. Jonny will understand that he only hears that tone when you mean what you say.
10. Be Consistent
If you say “No” mean no. If you say “No” and later turn around and say “Yes” you are making your job a whole lot harder. Your kids will not take you seriously until you become consistent with your directions and responses. I know it’s difficult but life is sweet when they know who’s the boss.
When you first try to turn things around, saying “No” consistently – you will have tantrums to deal with. No matter what age the child – Let them tantrum away, so long as they don’t hurt anyone. Stay calm and let them exhaust themselves. Don’t give up. Remember you are in charge!
When we are rested and free from stress it is easier to play by these rules. But in reality we get caught up in our daily struggles and everything we learn goes out the window. That said, if we manage to get in the habit of using the right language, tone and approach at the right times we will be making life so much easier for ourselves and for our kids in the longer term.