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Disciplining kids without making them scared

Disciplining kids without making them scared
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Kids will play up – it’s in their DNA to test you and the boundaries you set for them. So some form of discipline is going to be required to help keep them on the right track. At times, it can seem like the only way to get them to listen, to stop, or to learn is to shock them. Yelling works. As does suddenly containing or removing them physically from a situation. But these actions can scare a small child. Since when did that become okay?

Using shock tactics may work, but they have the potential to damage a child’s self-esteem and confidence, providing a model of behaviour that is questionable. I’m no soft touch; I don’t let my kids walk all over me. But I do believe their are kinder, fairer ways to discipline your kids than by scaring the pants off them. Here’s how.

Change your Focus

There has been so much talk about kids needing to ‘learn lessons’ and ‘receive consequences’. Traditional discipline methods rely on punishing our kids in some way and have become the accepted norm. Yet research has shown that being punitive with our kids can actually generate more of the same misbehaviours. This is because children learn how to behave from what they experience. If we ‘win’ by making them feel bad inside, then they will copy that by behaving badly and making us feel bad inside. It’s like a vicious circle.

Controlling a child by shouting, abandoning them into time-out, withdrawing love and affection and removing privileges, makes them angry and defensive. It is not respecting the emotions that caused them to act out in the first place. How can we expect them to display respect if we don’t show them how?

If instead, we model calm behaviour and a validation of emotions within the boundaries of acceptable behaviours, then we inspire our kids to WANT to behave more responsibly. In this way children learn to be more accepting of limits because they view them as fair, not punitive. If we remain calm, we show them how to manage their own feelings and good behaviour will naturally follow.

This isn’t a quick fix approach; it’s a way of living that over time, creating a home environment that is loving, respectful, and connected. And in that space a child feels secure enough to respond to the limits we set, they don’t harbour a need to rebel.

Here are some things you can do today to start moving towards this, with persistence, consistency, and time, your actions will deliver results.

Manage your Own Emotions

You are your children’s role model. When you feel yourself getting worked-up, take a moment to calm yourself down before you speak or act. This not only helps you, it also shows your kids that emotions are nothing to be afraid of – self-regulation IS possible.

Choose Empathy over Instruction

Disciplining kids without making them scaredWhen a child is upset, their ability to learn is inhibited. It’s neither productive nor helpful to try and get them to see the error of their ways. They are too busy trying to get a grip of the feelings they are experiencing. Practice being present and calm for your child in these moments. Maintain your boundaries and limits to keep them and you safe, without any threat of punishment. When the moment has passed they will be more receptive, then you can offer guidance then.

Setting limits empathetically is simple – it’s vital you acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings first, then let them know that what they are doing is not acceptable. If you can, offer an alternative – ‘I can see you are upset that she has the dolly, but hitting her is not okay. You need to use words to show her how you feel’

Create a Learning Framework

Just as when you are teaching your child other skills, it’s important to offer compassionate guidance when they are learning to regulate their emotions. When potty training, you didn’t shout and punish when it took them a while to get the hang of it. This is no different. Show them how it’s done. Expect it to take a while for them to learn how to behave appropriately, offer guidance, not punishment when they fail.

Help them To Come Back

When a child has experienced strong emotions that have caused them to act out, it can be difficult for them to find a way back to you. Help them to reconnect by creating opportunities to do something together. If your child has had a spat with a sibling, suggest ways in which they could make amends – drawing together, offering a hug, or starting a fresh game, for example.

Be Present

This is perhaps the most important point of all. Children who feel they are connected with their parents will naturally want to please, so over time, rebellions and acting out become the exception rather than the norm. Taking just a little time each day to simply be with your children without any other distraction, works wonders at building this bond. I know it sounds a bit woolly, but seriously, it works.

 

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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