Some of you have seen my posts about common discipline mistakes even the best parents make. Mom.me has just posted a re-working of those ideas as a gallery with pictures. It begins like this:
Because we’re always parenting our children, it takes real effort to look at our discipline strategies objectively. Good intentions can become less-than-effective habits quickly, and that can leave us operating blindly, disciplining in ways we might not if we thought much about it. Here are some parenting mistakes made by even the best-intentioned, most well-informed moms, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.
I know lots of loving parents who use time outs as their primary discipline technique. I’m not saying that time outs are completely unhelpful; more that I don’t think they’re the best alternative we have when it comes to discipline—the goal of which, remember, is to teach.
Reasons I’m Not a Fan of Time-Outs:
#1. What we know about the brain.
Because I know that brain connections are formed from repeated experiences, I don’t want my kids’ repeated experience to be isolation, which they may view as rejection, when they’ve made a mistake.
What I DO want them to repeatedly experience is doing things the right way. So, instead of a time out, I’ll often Continue Reading »
[This is a revised version of the first article in a two-part series. Click here to see the second four mistakes.]
Because we’re always parenting our children, it takes real effort to look at our discipline strategies objectively. Good intentions can become less-than-effective habits quickly, and that can leave us operating blindly, disciplining in ways we might not if we thought much about it. Here are some parenting mistakes made by even the best-intentioned, most well-informed parents, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.
Common Discipline Mistake #1: We lay down the law in an emotional moment, then realize we’ve overreacted.
Have you reacted in a way that was a bit “supersized” for the behavior you were trying to address? Maybe your child’s actions didn’t warrant such a dramatic pronoucement: “You can’t go swimming for the rest of the summer!” Or maybe the consequences even had to do with something you were counting on: “Stop calling your brother names or you can’t go to Grandma’s house today.” Of course, she again calls him “stinky-head” and calls your bluff. Your options at this point are to either miss your lunch with your friends or show your child that you don’t mean what you say.
In these moments, give yourself permission to rectify the situation. Obviously, follow-through is important once you’ve set boundaries; otherwise, you’ll lose credibility in your child’s eyes and your child will not have the security of knowing where the limits are. But there are ways to be consistent and still get out of the bind you’re in. For example, Continue Reading »
[This is a revision of the second article in a two-part series. Click here to see the first four mistakes.]
Here are more discipline mistakes made by even the best-intending, most well-informed parents, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.
Common Discipline Mistake #5: We get trapped in power struggles.
Everyone says to avoid power struggles. But no one seems to tell us what to do once we’ve gotten ourselves into an inevitable one. And when our kids feel backed into a corner, they instinctually fight back or totally shut down. So here are three ways to help you get out of those lose-lose power struggles you sometimes find yourself in.
A. Give your child an out or a choice that allows her to comply with your expectations, while still saving face: “Would you like to get a drink first, and then we’ll pick up the toys?” The phrase “It’s your choice” can be a powerful tool to wield, since it gives your child some amount of power, which can often diffuse stand-offs. So maybe you ask, “Would you like to get ready for bed now and read four bedtime stories tonight, or play 10 minutes longer and read two stories? It’s your choice.” (If she chooses fewer stories, it’s a good idea to remind her several times before story-time about her choice.)
B. Negotiate: “We’re not really getting anywhere here, are we? Let’s see if we can figure out a way for both of us to get what we need.” Obviously, there are some non-negotiable issues, but negotiation isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a Continue Reading »
Several people have asked me recently about Shankar Vendantam’s post on NPR’s Health Blog, where he writes about a subject I’ve discussed a good bit: tantrums. In Vendantam’s article, he discusses a recent study that appeared in the journal Emotion, where scientists examined different toddler sounds that typify a tantrum.
I find the whole study – which analyzes the patterns of sound and action that usually accompany a tantrum – absolutely fascinating. And I’m grateful to any scientists (in this case Michael Potegal and James A. Green) who offer us new information that can help us better understand our children so we can be more loving and nurturing as we interact with them. I also want to mention Vendantam’s book The Hidden Brain. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my “get to” list, since I understand that it raises some really interesting questions regarding how much our brain drives who we are, even without our awareness.
Having said all that, a couple of objections kept nagging at me when I read Vendantam’s blog post about Green and Potegal’s science explaining “what’s behind a temper tantrum.” Specifically, I kept wanting to hear less about how parents can “get a tantrum to end as soon as possible” (though I totally understand this desire and have felt this way during many of my own children’s tantrums), and more about how parents can be emotionally responsive and present when their kids are upset.
In other words, I wanted a tantrum to be presented not only as an unpleasant experience that parents can learn to manage for their own benefit, but instead as another opportunity to make a child feel Continue Reading »
When your kids misbehave, your immediate reaction may be to offer consequences with both guns blazing.
You hit your sister? That’s a time out.
You broke the book shelf while climbing to reach the matches? You just lost your playdate this afternoon.
Your kids act, and you react.
If you’ve heard me speak, or if you’ve read other pieces I’ve written about discipline, you know I’m a big believer in setting and enforcing boundaries. At times, giving consequences may be the best response in order to teach lessons about appropriate behavior and observing boundaries.
But here I want to make the case for stepping in before things escalate, before you have to start thinking about consequences. I’m talking about proactive parenting, as opposed to reactive parenting.
When we parent proactively, we watch for times when we can tell that misbehavior and/or a meltdown are in our kid’s near future, and we step in and try to guide them around that potential landmine. Sometimes you can even Continue Reading »
There’s no question about it: consistency is crucial when it comes to raising and disciplining our children. Many parents I see in my office realize that they need to work on being more consistent – with bedtimes, limiting junk food, or just in general – when they interact with their kids. But there are others who have placed such a high priority on consistency that it’s moved into a rigidity that’s not good for their kids, themselves, or their relationship.
Let’s begin by getting clear on the difference between the two terms. Consistency means working from a reliable and coherent philosophy so that our kids know what we expect of them, and what they should expect from us. Rigidity, on the other hand, means maintaining an unswerving devotion to rules we’ve set up, sometimes without having even thought them through. As parents, we want to be consistent, but not rigid.
Kids definitely need consistency from their parents. They need to know what the rules are, and how we will respond if they break (or even bend) those rules. Your reliability teaches them about cause and effect, and about what to expect in their world. More than that, it helps them feel safe; they know they can count on you to be constant and steady, even when their internal or external worlds are chaotic. In this way, we provide them with safe containment when they’re exploding because they want an extra scoop of ice cream.
So how do we maintain consistency without crossing over to rigidity? Well, let’s start by acknowledging that there are some non-negotiables. For instance, under no circumstances can you Continue Reading »