Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Big Girl's Guide to Discipline

The “Big Girls” Guide to Discipline                                                                                          

Ah, the journey of parenthood!  You bring your little bundle of joy home and coo and ahh at all the cute little things that make babies so fascinating.  Suddenly, one day parent paradise comes to an alarming halt when your cute little baby has become a toddler who has challenged your authority in a not so cute way.  You realize that the time has come to establish your role as the parent and stand your ground.  Know that parenting and discipline are learning experiences that are ongoing. The key here is age appropriate responses to undesirable behavior that are effective for both you and your child.  And although there is no magical formula that will work for every family, the following are a few pointers to help get you started on your journey. 

·         There are stages of appropriate parenting and discipline. 

What is appropriate for a toddler won’t work for older youth.  And you certainly can’t manage your toddler’s behavior the same as you would your teenager.  Therefore, make sure that as your child grows, your way of discipline is growing to accommodate the child.

·         Never discipline out of anger. 

It could be necessary to take some time to process what has happened and manage your feelings before engaging in disciplining your child.  Many times, discipline out of anger can result in something happening that the parent would later regret.  And the child learns that it’s acceptable to respond out of anger.  Avoid this.  And guess what!  It’s perfectly fine to explain that to your child.  Your dialogue may sound something like, “Mommy is very upset that you did something you were told not to do.  I’m going to take some time to think about how to handle this.  And you take some time to think about what you did also.”

·         Make sure your child understands that (s)he did something wrong. 

It isn’t always necessary to discipline the very first time if your child had no clue (s)he had done  something wrong.  Always take time to explain the undesirable behavior and why that isn’t the best thing to do or say or what have you.  Then, should the behavior reoccur, reinforce what you have already established with action.

·         Give your child credit for being an intelligent human being that is always learning. 

It’s ok to discuss why and consequences of undesirable behavior or bad choices.  The “because I said so” response could be taken as a challenge to rebel, whereas a discussion encourages your child to manage their behavior and responses appropriately.  This places the child on the road to making good decisions when you aren’t around and others could be influencing him or her to do something contrary to what would be considered appropriate behavior.
·         Effective discipline isn’t meant to be punitive, but a learning experience. 

Don’t hesitate to capitalize on the “teachable moments.”  What you are doing isn’t so much punishment as it is preparing your child to become an adult that understands there are consequences for actions.  Desirable behavior warrants positive consequences, while negative consequences await undesirable behavior.  This is a lesson that will follow your child throughout the remainder of his or her life.

Fewer roles are of comparable importance than the role of a parent.  And while there will be many mistakes along the way from both parent and child, enjoy your journey with your child knowing that you are shaping him or her up to be the best and most responsible person he or she is capable of becoming.

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