Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
As we prepare for the end to the school year when children more under foot, I began thinking about the many parenting issues that arise during this time. Indeed, the nearly 4 million incidences of child abuse occurred in the United States in 1915. My suspicion is these incidences of abuse occurred not because these children are unloved but, most likely, because parents act out their frustration in the process of disciplining. Parenting is not for wimps. Truly, parenting is really hard. And while we are forced to take a test before getting a drivers license, there is no such requirement for the raising our most precious cargo, our children.
Many parents believe that strict parenting produces better behaving kids. However, research studies on discipline is consistent and shows that strict, or authoritarian, parenting actually makes unhappy kids who feel bad about themselves and makes them behave worse. This leads parents to believe more punishment is needed to make children comply.
Permissive parenting doesn’t fare any better. When parents don’t set limits and cater to children’s every need, their children, don’t develop the ability to manage their emotions and behavior and are often seen as spoiled and lazy.
All children need limits to feel safe. Discipline is an important and effective tool, but parents need to use it in a way that keeps the child’s dignity intact. Discipline is not the same as harsh punishment. Discipline is simply teaching children which behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not.
Disciplining with love is a kind of Positive Parenting that allows parents to set limits effectively without yelling, name-calling and hitting. Parents do better when they teach instead of punish. This raises the question of how kids learn how to behave. Research shows that children learn best when they are given instructions, feel valued, and not put on the defensive.
what’s a Parent To Do or Not Do?
Here are my ground rules for effective parenting.
1. Never hit, spank, shake, or slap your child. Psychologists know that these behaviors teach that violence is a way to solve problems. Children also learn to lie and become sneaky, doing what they want under cover. Further, some children learn to fear and lose trust in parents and others in authorities. Even if it stops an unwanted behavior temporarily, studies show that children who are hurt by parents are more likely to hit and fight with other children, steal things, and engage in other anti-social behaviors. They are also more likely to act out in violent, aggressive ways when they become adults.
2. Avoid yelling, blaming, or calling children names for their bad behaviors. Instead, speak firmly, but kindly in a conversational tone. Be calm and describe the behavior you want to see.
3. Tell the child what to do instead of what not to do. You can’t do a don’t. Be descriptive. For example “Jump on the floor, not on the couch. The couch is for sitting.” Acknowledge when the child complies. Say, “That’s it. Or good job.”
4. Find alternatives to physical punishment. Consequences that are logically related to the transgression teach control and work better.
5. Also catch the child doing good and praise a job well done. Good teachers use this effectively.
6. Acknowledge your child’s feelings. You can say, “I see you are feeling upset. What’s going on?
7. Parenting is hard and we all get frustrated with our children’s behavior at times. Some of us get so angry we want to explode. When that happens, give yourself a time out. Go to the bathroom, take a few deep breaths and cool down.
8. Model the behavior you want to see. Children will likely follow your lead. If children repeatedly see parents acting out, they won’t know how to act differently.
9. Use loving words. Tell your children how much you love them, how much they mean to you, and how much you believe in them.
Remember, our children are our future and are precious gifts that we’ve been given to love and respect. With love and kindness, discipline can be a positive experience.
© Dr. Rachell N. Anderson, April 3, 2017