We want to discipline our children in the best and most effective way possible. But weve all made mistakes that weve regretted. Here are nine common errors that well-intentioned parents make, accompanied by suggestions for avoiding the pitfalls next time around:
Mistake No. 1: Yelling. Yelling is for venting anger, not changing kids behavior. Children of frequently yelling parents quickly tune out their folks ranting. They know Mom and Dad dont really mean business; yellings a ho-hum event. Boys and girls also copy that behavior and invariably start yelling themselves. Solution: Make a commitment to dispense with all yelling. Learn to communicate in respectful words and tone. Dont address problems when youre hot and bothered. Count to 10 (or if necessary 20) before opening your mouth. Save yelling for the bleachers.
Mistake No. 2: Nagging. Nagging is a futile attempt at discipline. Parents feel powerless because nothing changes. Kids know Mom and Dad dont expect compliance because theyve said the same thing time and again. Solution: Dont say anything unless youre serious. Then say it once and follow through with some action. Once kids know youre not kidding theyre more likely to fall into line.
Mistake No. 3: Lecturing. Some parents think more is better, that an extended scolding has more impact than a shorter one. In reality, kids have a limited attention span, especially when theyre being criticized. They quickly zone out, paying no attention to whats being said. Solution: Avoid the temptation to harangue kids. Say what you want in a concise manner. The point is to elicit results, not talk their ears off.
Mistake No. 4: Overtalking. Its good to offer kids explanations. But some parents spend so much time explaining that their message is hopelessly watered down. Solution: Say what you want with the fewest number of words. A brief, I need you to sit in the shopping cart, is far more effective than, You can get hurt badly if you stand up and Ill have to take you to the hospital. That would make us all very sad.
Mistake No. 5: Physical punishment. The purpose of discipline is to teach kids self-control. Its never accomplished through physical force. Children feel frightened or angry when theyre spanked, slapped or roughly treated. They dont learn what their parents want them to do. They also learn that its acceptable to hit, a message we never want to convey. Solution: Talk to children in terms they understand. State your expectations clearly and expect that they follow through. Remove kids quickly when they start to lose control.
Mistake No. 6: Unrealistic expectations. Its easy to think kids can do more than theyre able. This is especially true with firstborn and only children; moms and dads assume theyre more mature than they actually are. A toddler is likely to throw tantrums. A 4-year-old wont want to share her toys. Solution: Talk to other parents or take classes on child development. Youll learn whats within kids developmental limits and set behavioral demands accordingly.
Mistake No. 7: Not following through. If parents make a request Be home by 4, or Clean the kitty litter box before going to karate, its imperative they check to see its completed. When they dont, the chores unlikely to be completed and kids know they dont have to obey. Solution: Take the time to oversee childrens progress and compliance. Be firm, especially if theyre dawdling or whining.
Mistake No. 8: Shaming. Sometimes parents overlook how their words impact their children. Statements such as, Quit acting like a baby! or You never were very smart! cause them to feel inadequate and insecure. Solution: Check your words before speaking. Ask yourself, How would I feel if my boss or spouse spoke to me that way? Always talk in a courteous manner, even when correcting or setting a limit.
Mistake No. 9: Taking anger out on kids. Parents inevitably get stressed. But children shouldnt be used as their emotional trash cans. Its unfair and confusing when their folks come unglued over a behavior thats usually no big deal. And it doesnt teach kids anything except, Watch out for Mom or Dad! Solution: Recognize when your emotional thermometers rising. Take a breather. Get some exercise. Do whatever it takes to calm down. Just dont blame your youngsters.