Guest Author - Kelli Deister
This is the last article in the series for the month of April. This article highlights healthy ways to discipline a child, as well as certain scenarios of age appropriate behaviors. By disciplining a child in a healthy manner, it will prevent abuse from occurring. It is up to each parent as to whether or not they choose to discipline in a healthy way.
Children learn by mistakes and each child will go through age appropriate stages where they will misbehave. Consider the two-year-old that has discovered a hot burner on the stove. The parent tells the child repeatedly not to touch the stove or they will get hurt. However, curiosity is innate in little ones and they will try their best to touch the stove, out of curiosity. How then should the parents react? Should they yell and scream? Should they spank the child? No! How should they discipline their child? I believe that in this situation, the parent should correct the child verbally and then put them in a time out.
When there are a couple of three-year-old children playing together and one child takes the toy out of the other childís hands, they have to be taught to share. Again, this is age appropriate behavior for the children. When they want a toy that their playmate has, they just take it away from the other child. Normally, there will be a squabble between the two children and they might even have a tug-of-war going on over the toy. How should the parents discipline the children in this scenario? Perhaps the parent can calmly take the toy away from both children and put it out of their reach, explaining that they can have the toy back when they are willing to share it.
Another scenario would be the four-year-old child that plays with their toys and then leaves the mess on the floor in the living room. This is age-appropriate behavior. The child isnít trying to be naughty by leaving their toys on the floor. They simply are not thinking of cleaning up. How should the parent discipline their child in this case? Should they be spanked? No! I believe one way to discipline this behavior would be for the parent to tell the child to clean up the mess. If this behavior happens again, the parent might want to consider taking the toy away and putting it out of their childís reach. When the child wants it, they are told no because they didnít clean up their mess the last time.
My point is that every behavior calls for a different form of discipline. However, none of the scenarios that I have listed, call for a spanking or yelling at the child. The scenarios I have described in this article happen all the time because of the age that the children are. Children need to be guided by the adult. Their behavior should be explained at an age appropriate level so the children understand that their behavior is not allowed. The children are not being naughty. They are not purposefully trying to do the wrong thing. They are simply being children. Every age has itís own appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. It is up to the parents to guide the child in understanding of what is OK and what is not OK.
Some kids misbehave to get attention and to get what they want. Do not give their behavior the attention they are looking for. Instead, the parent should ignore the behavior of the child. Many of us, as parents, have experienced the temper tantrum in the grocery store when the child did not get what they wanted. When my children did this, I did one of two things, dependent on the severity of the situation. I would initially try to ignore the behavior. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didnít. When it didnít work, I took my children out to the car and sat them down in a time out. They were told we would not go back into the store until they stopped. Eventually, they stopped crying and throwing a fit and we went back into the store. These are healthy methods of discipline, in my opinion.
When disciplining a child, the parent should not scream and yell at the child. This gets the parents no where and only creates more drama and more stress. Screaming doesnít resolve the situation. We must also remember that, as parents, we must set the example for the children, because children learn by observation. When a child sees their parents screaming and yelling, they assume this is appropriate behavior and mimic it.
The parents must also decide what rules are most important in the home and to pick their battles. I believe that age appropriate behavior is something that happens because the child is learning. They are acting out according to their age level. It is something entirely different as the child grows older, understands the rules and makes a poor choice to break those rules. This is when discipline must be stronger. However, stronger does not equal physical pain. An example of disciplining in this scenario would be to take away a privilege, such as an upcoming play date with a friend, or perhaps taking away a favorite toy for a period of time.
Healthy discipline will prevent abuse from occurring. Parents that choose healthy forms of discipline are sending a clear message to their children of what is appropriate and what is not. They are also sending a message of respect for their child, as a person. Again, education equals prevention.