When it comes to discipline, every parent has a different style. But what if your ‘style’ just isn’t working out for you?
Parenthood is never easy. It is a journey of trial and error filled with meltdowns, tantrums, timeouts and lessons.
When it comes to disciplining your little one, no day is like the last. Just when you think you are making progress, your child has their biggest outburst ever. And every time this happens, you might defeatedly wonder, “Why is this always happening? What am I doing wrong?”
The good news is, there are simple solutions to your problems. The first step is to identify your mistakes.
Here are some of the common mistakes you might be making and how to fix them once and for all.
1. Not a ‘one-size-fits-all’
What is more important then being consistent in how you discipline your child? – Knowing when to enforce the rules and when to take it easy on them.
Sure, you may have developed a disciplinary system that you plan to follow strictly so that the rules and regulations you enforce is taken seriously by your child. While having a clear and comprehensive plan is key, it is our responsibility as parents take note of their behavioural cues and adjust to the situation.
For instance, when your child is misbehaving, ask yourself why he/she is doing so. Often, tantrums act as a signal to let you know that your little one is tired, hungry or feeling uncomfortable in any way. And when you fail to take into consideration their mood and the circumstances and simply enforce mete out the disciplinary action, well that’s when tempers really flare.
The fix: It is vital to constantly remind yourself to take a breath and make a careful judgement of the situation. Enforcing discipline should be on a case-by-case basis and not a one-size-fits-all.
2. When discipline turns into punishment
Imagine this: After spending a couple of long hours cooking for your family and laying out the meal, your little one says that he/she does not like the food and does not want to eat dinner. According to the rules you have implemented, he/she is not allowed to leave the table without finishing dinner. But they simply will not touch a morsel! Do you (A) force him/her to sit down all night as punishment or (B) let them leave without eating?
If you picked (B), you answered right! As parents, situations like these can be really frustrating. Sometimes, you may even find yourself motivated by your feelings of anger to mete out punishments that extend beyond your little one’s ‘crime.’
The fix: In these instances, it is so important to remember the difference between punishment and discipline. The whole aim of disciplining is to serve to teach your child how to be more responsible with their actions. Instead of being reactive whenever your child misbehaves, take the first step of addressing your own feelings, calming yourself and your child down and communicating why his/her behaviour is not ok.
In the above scenario for instance, it is especially important to not force your child to eat their food by punishing them. In fact, research shows that using punishment as a means to get your child to eat can create a picky eater or even result in weight issues! So, what should you do instead?
As frustrating as it can be, simply clear their plate and tell them that you will prepare food for them if they are hungry at a later time. It is also important to explain to them why eating on time is important and why food wastage is never right.
3. Being a ‘negative’ role model
Children are our biggest copycats – from the way we walk to the way we talk, they model their behaviour after ours. Unfortunately, they internalise our ‘bad behaviour’ as well. And there’s nothing worse than hearing, “But mommy does it too!” when you are trying to get your child to stop misbehaving.
The fix: Remember this throughout your parenting journey: “Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.” – Anonymous
Simply lead by example! Don’t want your child to use their phone during family time? Don’t whip out your phone yourself. Don’t want your child to use rude language or yell when they are frustrated with something? Always maintain your composure and remain calm in frustrating situations.
This, even the most successful parent can attest to, is easier said than done. When you do find yourself slipping up, make the conscious effort to vocalise to your child that you were wrong to act that manner. This will help him/her realise that everyone is held accountable for their negative actions and also gives you an opportunity to have a conversation with your child about how to address such situations.
It shouldn’t be a complicated process
At the end of the day, all we want is the best for our children. A good disciplinary system should not be a struggle to figure out or implement. All we have to do as parents is to listen to our instincts, be open to the non-verbal signals our children constantly give us and have open, honest conversations with them.
It is no cakewalk but finding the right system that works for you can make all the difference in your parenting journey and will lay the groundwork for developing your little one into an all-round wonderful human being!