Difficult Discipline Situations

Every parent must deal with many of the same problem behaviors. Developing a reasonable, rational and targeted strategy ahead of time will prepare you to respond in the right way and at the right time.

Stalling behaviors are common for children and teens of all ages. By setting clear and concise expectations your child will be aware of both responsibilities and boundaries. Family meetings and posted chore lists and family rules provide the social venue for both discussion and the sharing of reasonable and rational expectations. Teens and children of all ages flourish with structure. Structure prepares your child for both positive and negative consequences and allows opportunity for genuine praise and ongoing feedback. If your child stalls, be prepared to provide an immediate natural or logical consequence and look for underlying emotional issues which may help you understand why your child has chosen to stall and not comply. Recognizing and understanding your child’s behavior allows you to respond in the best way possible to your child’s stalling behavior.

Toddlers are often unhappy. Situations and events make it difficult for toddlers to communicate their feelings. This makes them difficult to understand, and they respond with unhappiness, outbursts and minor temper tantrums. Parents who listen to their toddler and preschooler rather than simply try to solve their problem are better able to avert the progression to major outbursts and more overt signs and indications of unhappiness. Toddlers love schedules, routines and rituals. Planning helps decrease the risk for unhappiness. Consider using sign language or providing acceptable behavior alternative to replace unhappiness. Never be fearful of stating the obvious. Children are rational and are better able to accept change when warnings are given and preparations are made. By allowing your child to have some control the power of choice often becomes the best way to eliminate unhappiness.

Aggression is a common problem. Boys are seven times more likely to express aggressive behavior than girls and young school-aged children who are under stress are the most likely to choose aggressive acting out behaviors. Aggressive behaviors usually have a cause. Is your child angry, frustrated or fearful? Does he feel threatened? Is he experiencing rage? Aggression is common in children who have issues with self-worth and self-esteem. Many of these children have negative or hostile feelings about themselves and express these feelings by projecting these thoughts on others through acts of aggression. Teaching these children how to recognize and respond to their emotions provides the means to manage the aggression and at the same time learn the coping and social skills that are necessary to happily live and interact with others.

Lying and cheating are two other common issues. In children these behaviors are often a defense mechanism and a response to excessive parental expectations. Children between the ages of three and five years must learn the power of acceptance, how to give and share and how to be non-judgmental and to tell the truth. Lying and cheating are often behaviors learned by watching parents or may be a sign of peer or social issues. Telling the truth is a learned behavior that must be supported from the earliest age if a child is to learn the importance of high moral values for oneself and for others.

The Discipline You Choose

Have you ever wondered about your discipline choices? You are not alone. This common parental concern is dark, deep, hidden and scary for most parents. It does not have to be. By following certain guideposts and budgeting the time to review your choices you can become the parent you want to be.

Remember you never need to be alone. Find a partner. Ask a spouse, relative, counselor or friend for the support and guidance you need. Read books about parenting styles and discipline techniques. Ask questions, listen, learn and connect with others. Watch the discipline choices others make and ask: “What kind of parent do I want to be? Am I a positive role model for my child?  Have I banned violence from our home? Am I ready and aware of the choices my child will make? Are my parenting expectations reasonable? Do I respond to my child’s behavior with rational and targeted responses? Do I think before I speak and set clear, concise, consistent, confident and competent boundaries?” Answering these questions will help you decide what discipline changes you need to make.

The hallmarks of good discipline are communication and connection. These two cornerstones support the management choices each parent must make to ensure healthy physical, emotional and cognitive development for a child.

Management techniques include distraction, redirection and behavior substitution. These strategies in conjunction with active ignoring are essential for children and teens of all ages and especially important for toddlers and preschoolers. Young children often become confused when parents use verbal explanations and insight directed interactions for redirection. Young children learn best from schedules, routines and rituals. They rely on stability and concrete redirection. By focusing on praise, general encouragement and positive reinforcement negative behaviors fade and are replaced by supported positive behaviors. Parents who anticipate behaviors and provide gentle guidance become the parents who are listened to and learned from.

Avoid discipline choices that rely on guilt or punishment strategies that communicate failure to your child. Never scold, nag or embarrass your child in private or public and remember these choices lead to humiliation, diminished self-worth and anger.

Discipline choices outside your home are especially difficult. Always discuss behavior expectations with your child before leaving home and determine reasonable natural or logical consequences that may be needed. Be aware of the impact of fatigue, hunger and stress on your child. At all times rely on genuine praise and immediate rewards to support and encourage positive behaviors in your child and during times of stress pursue a time out for both you and your child before choosing a penalty. Although safety and security of your child are always the highest concerns the discipline choices you make will always be long remembered.