By GreatSchools Staff
“I’m gonna’ count to three, and you better get over here! One, two, two and a half, two and three-quarters …” Sound at all familiar?
Disciplining kids is one of the most important, confusing, and difficult jobs parents have. And as kids are trying our nerves, it’s worth remembering that testing limits is their job.
It’s not always easy, but there are a few simple ways to make discipline easier for you and your child. You can start by remembering that young children respond best to positive messages. Instead of “Don’t run,” try “Please walk.” They also need consistency. Congratulations! You’ve already helped avoid the top-three discipline pitfalls below.
The problem: You’re in the grocery store, desperately hoping to get through the checkout line without a scene. Meanwhile, one child starts begging for a candy bar. The other wails that she hates! hates! hates! the icky, healthy cereal you bought. To quiet them down, and quiet your nerves, you relent and buy them each a candy bar. Ah, no more whining children. Until next time.
Sure, bribes are quick and easy, and they often do the trick to head off chaos. But the peace you buy with that candy bar is fleeting — nothing but a short-term solution. In the long run, bribes teach your kids that they can misbehave and get rewarded for it.
Try this instead: On the way to the store, remind your children why you’re going: To buy only the things on your shopping list. Once there, give each child an assignment: helping you find items and checking them off the list (a bonus: These tasks keeps them distracted, teaches planning, and strengthens reading and writing skills). At the store, if they plead hunger and start caterwauling for that candy bar, say you’ll be happy to buy them a banana or apple.
When they've behaved like angels for the entire shopping jaunt, remember the importance of praising them. “I really appreciate how much you helped in the store!” Very often this kind of positive reinforcement is all a child needs to behave well the next time. (It's cheaper and healthier than a candy bar to boot.) If you want to give them more than praise, consider something that isn’t a toy or treat. A trip to the playground or an extra story at bedtime reinforces the message that good behavior has its own rewards.
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