Tips for Positive Discipline

Tips for Positive Discipline

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Parents may sometimes react inappropriately when their children behave inappropriately. Such things happen when parents don't have a plan in place. Have a carefully thought out plan in place on how you want to handle problem behaviors. It is best to write down your plan. When you and your partner have looked at the plan in ink and have agreed on it, you may ACT appropriately, according to your plan, rather than REACT at the spur of the moment.

Bribing, yelling and threatening are examples of a parent's spur of the moment reaction, while the awarding or withdrawing of privileges, grounding and specific rewards and penalties are examples of acting according to a plan.

There is some confusion as to what constitutes bribing and rewarding. Some mistakenly believe that all rewards are essentially forms of bribery. Actually, planned rewards indicate that parents are in control, while bribery indicates that a child is in control. Bribery is done under duress and from a position of weakness.

To fix rewards for specific chores is healthy and morally defensible. Make a (written list of appropriate chores and rewards. That is an effective way of helping to shape your child's behavior. But, if you say to your child, "Pick up those toys and I will give you some ice cream," that could progressively result into a pattern of "bribery" on your part and "extortion' on the part of your child.

A very bad kind of bribery takes place when a parent rewards a child for stopping an inappropriate behavior. Example: "If you stop whining, I'll give you the chocolate you love." The child learns the following lesson for the next time: "If I whine louder and longer, I can get more of that candy I love."

However, reminding and prompting the child or setting conditions and terms is appropriate. For example, it is all right to say to a whining child, "You have to speak properly, in the normal voice and then I will pay attention to what you are saying." Note that you are only promising your attention and not promising to give in or fulfill your child's desire.

What about yelling? Yelling is useful when a child is in harm's way and you want to warn and stop him or her instantly. Moving yourself or your loved one out of harm's way and warding off the danger is the positive purpose of yelling. In some circumstances yelling may serve the purpose of releasing tension and pent up emotions.

Yelling for any other reason is likely to produce negative results. A child who is yelled at may become frightened or angry. Yelling, if stemming from anger, has a tendency to escalate over time -- becoming more severe and frequent. A child who is frequently yelled at may become fearful and timid or angry and defiant.

Putting forth reminders for a child utilizing pictures, humor or cartoons is likely to give better results and reduce the need for yelling. Therefore, instead of yelling, parents may use the "silent reminders" by way of writing, drawing or pasting pictures.

Thanks God, children don't live or work under pressure as adults do. But, parents have all kinds of pressure - a difficult boss, unpaid bills, sickness, deadlines, schedules and other time pressures. A child doesn't understand why he or she has to hurry when you are in such a hurry. If you are human, you sure feel like yelling. That is the time to override the impulse.

Turn around, take a couple deep breaths and say to your child, "Show me how much cereal you can finish by the count of twenty." Is something still left in the bowl? Let it go. Sometime the need for yelling results from our own rigidity, compulsivity and perfectionism.

Parental nagging is the counterpart of child's whining. If you don't want your child to whine, your child doesn't want you to nag. Keep it simple and short. If you have a plan, you'll find little need to nag. All you have to do is to use the plan consistently.

How does a parent get trained in nagging other than the training they received in their own childhood? In the beginning, as a parent starts nagging, the child may comply immediately, thus, unintentionally, rewarding a parent's nagging behavior. The rewarded parent increasingly uses nagging to elicit compliance from the child. The child becomes more and more insensitive and immune to nagging. The parent nags harder and harder.

Have you ever caught yourself using any the following statements?
1. Why can't you be more like your brother (or sister)?
2. Why can't you do…(such and such) without me having to ask you a thousand times?
3. What a mess! Do…(such and such) this minute or you'll be sorry!

Let's convert them into specific, direct and uncomplicated requests:
1. I want you to do your homework right after dinner.
2. Brush your teeth by 8.00 p.m. every day without any reminder from me.
3. Pick up all the toys and put them in the basket before you watch TV.

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Copyright 2001, Mind Publications 


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