Last month we looked at effective parenting in the 21st century. This month we continue with effective parenting looking at practical ways to deal with common behaviours we contend with from our children. If you are hoping for a step-by-step guide, you will be disappointed. The reality is that when it comes to parenting techniques there is no one size fits all approach. Your child is unique. It was Pablo Casals who said, “A child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.”
Children communicate through behaviour. This is how they express their needs, fears, frustrations, and longings. When we recognise this, we can begin to look for the cause of the behaviour and respond. By doing this, we teach children how to self-regulate behaviour. And as with anything in life, if we want to see positive change, we must be consistent over time. So instead of just throwing our hands in the air or resorting to harsh disciplinary measure, or labelling behaviour that challenges us as ‘problem behaviour, we can adjust our responses and assist our children recognise what is ‘fuelling’ their behaviour. L.R Knost said, “Discipline is helping a child solve a problem. Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem. To raise problem solvers, focus on solutions, not retribution.”
The key to disciplining is to clearly communicate in advance to your child your expectations of behaviour and consequences if the expectations are not met, and then to be consistent with following through with the consequences. When communicated in a respectful manner that reflects the love and concern you have for your child, you are more likely to yield positive outcomes. So, stay calm, tell them why the behaviour is unacceptable, referring to the expectations previously set and what the consequence will be if they are not willing to make the right choice. Encourage your child to talk about what they are feeling, so that you can try to understand why they are behaving in a particular way. There will be wins but expect loses. You can tip the balance in the favour of wins, by being alert to good behaviour. Catch them being good and let them know what you saw and heard and how proud you are of the positive choice they made.