Guest Author - Julie Renee Holland
Ask a dozen parents what discipline means and you'll likely get a dozen different answers. For AP moms and dads the meaning is usually gentler, but it can still be very confusing. How do you discipline a deliberately wayward child? How do you teach a 2 year old that biting is wrong without joining them? When is it ok to let a problem go and when will ignoring it lead to bigger problems later?
Discipline is the art of teaching a child to govern themselves in a world where rock stars, sports "heros" and politicians regularly demonstrate that selfishness is fashionable and rewarding. When you have a close relationship with your child you have already won 80% of the battle. Discipline does not require shaming, violence, anger, or threats. The most effective discipline is often the most subtle.
Children learn through cause and effect. If I throw this ball, it hits the ground every single time. If I throw food off my highchair, mom quietly takes my plate away, every time. When you provide consistent, logical consequences for undesirable actions, pretty soon the game is no fun. If the results are predictable and there is no drama, then it is time to move on.
Often children disobey in an effort to get attention. Remove the attention and drama and there is no fun it in anymore. Rewarding good behavior goes a long way towards eliminating the undesirable behavior. Be liberal with hugs and genuine praise. "You dressed yourself!" is genuine and increases self confidence. Empty praise dilutes the value of your praise and makes the child less self-confident as they soon learn to see that you praise them for everything so what they do really doesn't matter.
Discussing the consequences of their behavior can help a child to see why an action is hurtful to others. "When you hit your sister it hurts her and it makes mommy and daddy sad. What can you do when you are angry at your sister that will help make everyone feel better?" Of course, we have all seen parents who take this to the extreme. The time to explain the danger of the street is after you remove your child from the situation. Reason and logic will not stop a moving vehicle.
Finally, model the behavior you wish to see. If your clothes are on the floor, your words are hurtful, your temper out of control, then your child will do just what they see. It can be quite a shock to hear your unkind words coming from your two year old as they play with their dolls!