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Published on February 11, 2021

3 Positive Discipline Strategies That Are Best For Your Child

3 Positive Discipline Strategies That Are Best For Your Child

I’m old enough to remember how the cane at school was used for punishment. My dad is old enough to think that banning corporal punishment in schools resulted in today’s poorly disciplined youth. With all of this as my early experiences, there was a time when I would have been better assigned to write about how to negatively discipline your child.

What changed? Thankfully, my wife showed me different approaches for discipline that were very positive. Plus, I was open to learning.

What has not changed is that kids are full of problems with impulses and emotions that flip from sad to happy, then angry in a moment. Though we’re not that different as adults with stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and stimulants such as sugar and caffeine in our diets.

Punishment as Discipline?

What this means is that we usually take the easy path when a child misbehaves and punish them. Punishment may solve an isolated problem, but it’s not really teaching the kids anything useful in the long term.

Probably it’s time for me to be clear about what I mean by punishment and discipline as these terms are often used interchangeably, but they are quite different.

Discipline VS. Punishment

Punishment is where we inflict pain or suffering on our child as a penalty. Discipline means to teach. They’re quite the opposite, but you’ll notice that teachers, parents, and coaches often confuse the two words.

So, as parents, we have to have clear goals to teach our kids. It’s a long-term plan—using strategies that will have the longest-lasting impact on our kids are the best use of our time and energy.

If you’re clear about what you want to achieve, then it becomes easier to find the best strategy. The better we are at responding when our kids misbehave or do not follow our guidance, the better the results are going to be.

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3 Positive Discipline Strategies for Your Child

Stay with me as I appreciate that a lot of people who read these blogs do not always have children with impulse control. We’ve had a lot of kids in our martial arts classes that were the complete opposite. They had concentration issues, hyperactive, and disruptive to the other children.

The easy solution is to punish their parents by removing the kids from the class or punish the child with penalties such as time outs and burpees. Yes, it was tempting to do all of this, but one of our club values is that we pull you up rather than push you down.

This means it’s a long-term gain to build trust and confidence, which is destroyed by constant punishments.

Here are the discipline strategies we used to build trust and confidence with these hyperactive kids.

1. Patience

The first positive discipline strategy is to simply be patient. The more patient you are, the more likely you are to get results. Remember I said that we need to build trust and connection. You’ll get further with this goal using patience.

As a coach, sometimes I was not the best person for this role, but we had other coaches in the club that could step in here. As a parent, you may not have this luxury, so it’s really important to recognize any improvements that you see and celebrate them.

2. Redirection

The second strategy we use is redirection. It’s important with a redirection to take “no” out of the equation. Choices are a great alternative.

Imagine a scenario where you’re in a restaurant and your kid is wailing. The hard part here is getting your child to stop screaming long enough for you to build a connection. Most parents have calming strategies and if you practice them with your child, they are more likely to be effective.

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In the first moment of calm, you can say “Your choice to scream and cry in public is not a good one. It would be best to say, Dad. What can I do to get ice-cream?” You can replace this with an appropriate option.

The challenge with being calm and redirecting is that we need to be clear-minded, focused, and really engaged at the moment. If you’re on your phone, talking with friends or family, thinking about work or the bills, you’ll miss this opportunity to discipline in a way that has long-term benefits.

3. Repair and Ground Rules

The third positive discipline strategy is to repair and use ground rules. Once you’ve given the better option and it has been taken, you have a chance to repair this behavior to lessen its occurrence to better yet, prevent it from happening again. And by setting appropriate ground rules, you can make this a long-term win by helping your child improve their behavior.

It’s these ground rules that help you correct the poor choices of your child and direct the behavior that you want to see.

Consequences Versus Ultimatums

When I was a child and being punished. My parents worked in a busy business for long hours, so their default was to go to ultimatums. “Do that again and you’re grounded for a week,” or “If I catch you doing X, you’ll go to bed without dinner”.

Looking back, this worked to a point. But the flip side is that I remembered more of the ultimatums than the happier times. I’ve learned through trial and error with my own kids that consequences are more effective while not breaking down trust.

What to Do When Ground Rules Get Broken?

It’s on the consequences that you use when the ground rules are broken.

In the martial arts class, when the hyperactive student breaks the ground rules. They would miss a turn in a game or go to the back of the line in a queue. We do not want to shame the child by isolating them. But on the flip side, there should be clear ground rules and proportionate consequences.

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Yes, there are times when we would like to exclude the student from the class, the club, and even the universe. Again, it’s here that patience is so important and probably impulse control too. With an attainable consequence, you can maintain trust and you’re more likely to get the long-term behavior that you’re looking to achieve.

Interestingly, we would occasionally hear a strategy from parents that little Kevin has been misbehaving at home with his sister or something similar. He likes martial arts training, so the parent would react by removing Kevin from the martial arts class as a punishment.

We would suggest that this would remove Kevin from an environment where he is behaving positively. Removing him from this is likely to be detrimental to the change you would like to see. He may even feel shame when he returns to the class and loses all the progress he’s made.

Alternatives to Punishment

Another option is to tell Kevin to write a letter to his sister, apologizing for his behavior, and explaining how he is going to behave in the future.

If your child is too young to write, give the apology face to face. For the apology to feel sincere, there is some value to pre-framing or practicing this between yourself and your child before they give it to the intended person.

Don’t expect them to know the ground rules or what you’re thinking! It will be clearer to your child and better received with some practice. You can practice along the lines of: “X is the behavior I did, Y is what I should have done, and Z is my promise to you for how I’m going to act in the future.” You can replace XYZ with the appropriate actions.

It does not need to be a letter or in person, it can even be a video. But there has to be an intention to repair the broken ground rule. If you try these strategies, that is become fully engaged with them and you’re still getting nowhere.

But what to do if these strategies do not work? Then there is plenty to gain by seeking the help of an expert. Chances are that something is interfering or limiting their development.

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This does not mean that your child has a neurological deficiency, although this may be the root cause. But it means that you can get an objective view and help on how to create the changes that you would like to see. Remember that using positive discipline strategies is better than mere punishment.

There are groups that you can chat with for help. Family Lives UK has the aim of ensuring that all parents have somewhere to turn before they reached a crisis point. The NSPCC also provides a useful guide to positive parenting that you can download.[1]

Bottom Line

So, there your go, the three takeaways on strategies you can use for positively disciplining your child. The first one is about you! Be patient, be present, and think about what is best for the long term. AKA, avoid ultimatums and punishment. The second is to use a redirect, then repair and repeat (ground rules) as your 3-step method of discipline.

Using these positive discipline strategies require you to be fully engaged with your child. Again, being impulsive breaks trust and you lose some of the gains you’ve both worked hard to achieve.

Lastly, consequences are better than punishment. Plus, avoid shaming, especially in public at all costs.

I hope this blog has been useful, and remember that you should be more focused on repairing bad behavior because being proactive and encouraging good behavior with rewards, fun, and positive emotions takes less effort than repairing the bad.

More Tips on How To Discipline Your Child

Featured photo credit: Leo Rivas via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NSPCC Learning: Positive parenting

More by this author

Lee Douglas

Martial Arts Coach and Self Protection Expert

3 Positive Discipline Strategies That Are Best For Your Child 7 Positive Parenting Techniques to Raise Happy Kids 3 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Learn And Grow Positively

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Last Updated on January 29, 2021

How To Help Your Child To Cope With Anger

How To Help Your Child To Cope With Anger

Kids have a way of disarming parents with their innocent smiles and sweet comments. However, nothing can quite prepare you for the wrath of an angry child.

Anger is a natural response to injustice or frustration. Kids aren’t born with emotional awareness and control, though, so it’s up to parents to help them deal with it. Fortunately, most kids outgrow outbursts and temper tantrums by the time they’re seven or eight. By then, they’ve learned self-control and can vocalize their frustrations better.

There are times when a child’s anger can be a sign of a deeper problem. Knowing the warning signs can be the first step in getting appropriate help.

When should you worry? What are ways to help a child cope with anger?

Is It Normal for My Child to Be So Angry?

Children can get upset for a variety of reasons. Often, it doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but kids have big emotions. You never know what might set them off. It might be spilled juice, a missing toy, the wrong kind of cereal, or socks that feel weird. Kids will communicate it often and in a wide variety of ways.

Here are the most common ways an angry child will express their feelings:

  • Crying
  • Screaming
  • Kicking
  • Biting
  • Yelling
  • Stomping
  • Pushing

Kids expressing themselves this way are exhibiting typical childhood behavior and usually self-correct with guidance and help.[1]

Sometimes, the situation is complicated because the anger is a symptom of a more serious issue. This requires more diligent efforts and possibly the help of a professional.

When Is Anger Extreme?

You may need to get further help if your child struggles with any of the following:

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  • They have tantrums and outbursts that go beyond 7 or 8 years old.
  • Their anger interferes with relationships at home and interrupts family life.
  • The child becomes dangerous to themself or others.
  • The child feels bad about it.
  • The child’s anger causes problems with other kids at school.
  • The frequency and intensity of outbursts increase as the child gets older.

These are signs that the anger is out of control and might point to an underlying issue.[2]

What Are the Common Sources of Anger?

It can be both frustrating and scary to realize your child may have an anger issue. You want answers so you can help your child. This list is not exhaustive but provides a good starting point. These are all common and can cause unexplained or extreme anger in your child.

1. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

This disorder is relatively new, so it’s uncertain how widespread it is. There are specific things to look for, however.[3]

  • Three or more severe outbursts a week, on average
  • Outbursts that have lasted at least 12 months
  • Chronically irritable or bad mood
  • Trouble functioning in multiple environments
  • Irritation is out of proportion to the situation, extreme for what would be considered normal for that age

DMDD is most often diagnosed between the ages of six and ten.

2. ADHD

Kids with ADHD can be more likely to struggle with anger. They tend to be more sensitive and impulsive, making their emotions harder to control. Frustrations from school or other kids can accumulate and make an outburst seem sudden and inappropriate. It can be hard for them to slow down mentally and physically and is even more difficult to do when under pressure or stressed.[4]

3. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Aggression is a common symptom of ASD and often takes the form of self-injury, temper tantrums, impulsivity, and irrational moods. Kids on the spectrum have a hard time with social interaction and boundaries.[5]

4. Environment

A child dealing with trauma or an unhealthy environment will be more likely to act aggressively. This can be hard for parents to acknowledge, but sometimes children learn anger at home. Or maybe they are dealing with something traumatic. The important thing is to pinpoint the problem and work as a family to fix it. It is better to reach out for help early on, so that good habits can be established.

How You Can Help Your Child Overcome Anger?

You may be asking, “What now?” With so much information available, it can be hard to figure out what’s best for your family and dealing with your angry child. Temper tantrums can be disruptive and hard to deal with, even if they only last a few years.

If your child has been diagnosed with a disorder, you might be feeling a mix of sorrow and relief. The process can be overwhelming. Often it means making large life changes as the family adjusts. It can take time to find the “new normal.”

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The good news is that finding answers and knowing what you’re facing can help you move forward. Those first steps feel good because you know you’re headed in the right direction.

Fortunately, there are many ways a child can learn anger management skills. With time and dedication, your child can learn specific techniques that will help process emotions. What are some of those methods?

1. Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation is the ability to monitor when and how you have emotions and knowing what to do with them. It is a significant milestone in child development, and parents play a crucial role. How?

Imitation is the best way for children to learn how to regulate their emotions. Kids learn emotion regulation by watching those around them. You can show your angry child how to handle their feelings by being a good role model.[6]

It can be hard to stay calm in the heat of the moment. Here are some tips for getting control of your anger:[7]

  • Think before you speak.
  • Exercise.
  • Take a time-out.
  • Express yourself after you’re calm.
  • Don’t attack or criticize others.
  • Use humor to ease the conflict.
  • Look for solutions instead of focusing on the problem.
  • Know when to seek help.

2. Communication Strategies

Effective communication is key to relationships. Children struggle with finding the right words to convey what they’re thinking.

You can help your child learn good communication skills by:

  • Teaching your child a variety of words to use for different emotions
  • Allowing your child to describe their emotions by asking questions

3. Conflict Resolution

Knowing how to resolve conflict is an invaluable skill. Kids can begin learning it at an early age. Watch for opportunities to teach your child how to handle those stressful situations.

One example would be when you hear an argument take place. Step in to guide the process but be careful not to give the answers. Hear both sides of the story, and give each person a chance to come up with a resolution. Another way is to try turning it into a game to help make it memorable and fun, which can help your angry child calm down.

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4. The Stoplight Method

This method helps an angry child learn to calm down on their own. Practice it when they’re relaxed, so they can remember the process when they’re stressed.

  1. Have your child close his eyes and picture a stoplight.
  2. When the light is red, take three deep breaths and think of something relaxing.
  3. When the light turns yellow, it’s time to evaluate the problem. Think of two ways to solve the problem. Does he need an adult’s help?
  4. When the light turns green, it’s time to try one of the solutions out.

This visualization game helps build the patterns necessary to think a problem through.[8]

5. Exercise

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, increase focus, and give an overall boost. There’s another reason to consider including it in the list of treatments, though. If your child is overweight, aerobic exercise can be an effective way to reduce anger and aggression.[9]

A Quick Look at Behavioral Therapy

For children dealing with other disorders, the above methods might not be enough. While it can be discouraging, there is plenty of help available. With a little extra help, your child can have emotional control, too.

What other treatments are available? What can you expect next?

1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

A therapist does this type of treatment. The goal is for the child to recognize their thoughts and feelings and change the ones that negatively affect behavior. By identifying patterns and reactions, an angry child can learn to respond differently.[10]

2. Parent Management Training (PMT) for Behavior Therapy

This is similar to CBT but teaches parents how to respond to their child positively. The focus is on positive reinforcement, which is also a great way to build up the parent-child relationship.

Interestingly, this therapy involves some of the methods previously mentioned. Children are taught emotion regulation and CBT while parents focus on being good role models.

There are other key components, such as:

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  • Education
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Ignoring negative behavior
  • Rewards
  • Set standards
  • Allowing consequences

You Can Make a Difference Today

You have a list of treatments, but how are they put into action? What does it look like in everyday life? You can start today by teaching your child:

  • Self-Imposed Cool Off Time (SICOT): children close their eyes, rest their head on the desk or in their hands, and focus on calming down.
  • Anger itself is not bad. Everyone gets angry.
  • What happens to your body when you get angry
  • How thoughts influence our actions
  • Self-calming techniques, such as counting backward, breathing exercises, relaxing face and neck muscles, and unclenching fists
  • Self-awareness and triggers
  • Key phrases such as, “I’m frustrated/angry/irritated because…” “I am breathing calm.”

Is Punishment Appropriate?

It would be nice if there were a permanent solution and an angry child was never an issue again. Of course, that’s not the case, and your child will still make mistakes. Even adults do not handle their anger well at times, no matter how well-intentioned they might usually be.

You will have to decide when and what form of punishment is necessary. Keep in mind that sometimes, punishment can produce the opposite effect.

Here are some ways to make sure you’re making a positive impact, whatever route you decide to take:[11]

  • Be motivated by the desire to help.
  • Show your child their feelings are valid.
  • Give examples of acceptable ways to handle the situation.
  • Use plenty of positive reinforcement and praise them when they handle a situation well.
  • Avoid tempting or troubling circumstances when possible.
  • Use attention, affection, and touch to build your child up.
  • Don’t put your child down. Instead, focus on strengths.
  • Set clear limits. Have household rules that everyone is expected to follow.

Important Things to Remember as a Parent

Remember, you love your child more than anyone else. You want your child to succeed and live a healthy life. Be a positive role model and show patience as your child navigates emotions. Regardless of the severity of the anger, you can help your angry child reach realistic goals, and help is always available when you need it.

Knowing is half the battle, so arm yourself with knowledge. You’ll be more prepared, more confidant, and better able to withstand storms.

More Tips on How to Deal With an Angry Child

Featured photo credit: Alexander Dummer via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Yale Medicine: Anger, Irritability, and Aggression in Kids
[2] Child Mind Institute: Is My Child’s Anger Normal?
[3] National Institute of Mental Health: Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
[4] Understood ADHD and Anger: What You Need To Know
[5] Center for Disease Control: Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
[6] Sage Journals: Social Learning Theory
[7] Mayo Clinic: Anger Management: 10 Tips to Tame Your Anger
[8] PBS: Five Strategies to Help Kids Resolve Conflict
[9] NCBI: Aerobic Exercise Program Reduces Anger Expression Among Overweight Children
[10] Center for Disease Control: Behavior Therapy
[11] Child Development Institute: Anger Management for Kids and Parents

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