Friday Round-Up: Five Top Tips for Discipline

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Discipline. It’s endless. It’s demanding.

I have one son that gives me the “eye roll.” I have the other son who likes to quietly stare at me and do nothing I’ve asked him to do. Four eyes. Four adored, testing-the-limits eyes. All saying, “Not gonna happen Mama.” Just the other day I caught myself before I laid down the clichéd, “Do you have any idea how much I do for you every. single. day?”

There’s nothing more frustrating to a parent than feeling like you can’t get a handle on your child cooperating. We feel disrespected, powerless; the list goes on. Culled from leading early childhood development experts, the following five tips are absolute life-savers! Applied daily and consistently, this whole discipline thing could get fun. —  Laurel Moglen, Managing Web Editor, TMC

Michele Borba

Get attention. Lower your voice almost to a whisper and then say what you want. Kids are used to rants, raised voices and frustrated tones. They learn to tune it all out. Try making quiet requests. (It’s an old teacher trick and is surprisingly effective.)

Amy McCready

When-Then. If you want your child to do something, like clean-up his room, brush her teeth, or clear his dishes, use the “when-then” tool.

For example, as a parent you can say, “WHEN you clean-up your room, THEN I’ll play a game with you,” “WHEN I brush your teeth, THEN I’ll read a book to you,” or “WHEN you clear your dinner plate, THEN I’ll play catch with you.” Do emphasize the words “when” and “then.”

If used consistently, your children will become very used to the cadence, and they’ll know you mean business right when they hear the word “when.”

Note: It’s critical that whatever follows the “then,” is something the child really wants to do or cares about, or this tool is impotent. Also, you must say your “when-then” in a calm voice, so you don’t invite a power struggle.  Last extremely important point — after you say the “when-then,” walk away. When you disengage, you send the message to your child that you have faith in your child to get the task done, and you are not going to negotiate or argue about the issue. It also gives your child the opportunity to “save face” because s/he can complete the task without you glowering over her/him. This tool ends up empowering both you and your child.

Noel Janis-Norton

Descriptive Praise. Descriptive praise is a powerful discipline tool, that if used consistently, will mitigate power struggles and push-back from your young children and help them want to listen and cooperate.

During the course of a day, use descriptive praise to reinforce your children’s behavior whenever they’re doing something good or even just a tiny step in the right direction. For example, “You put all your clean laundry away, that was very responsible,” or “When you took your plate to the kitchen sink, that was a very helpful thing to do,” or “You’ve already got your underwear and one sock on; you’re almost halfway dressed!” Be sure to describe the child’s action, not their personality.

Notice I don’t suggest you say, “You are so helpful to take your plate to the kitchen sink.” This is because we want the praise connected to the behavior. Behavior can be described in all sorts of ways; you can save up an archive of words like, “loving, compassionate, resourceful, persistent, etc.” There is no need to add, “good job!” or any similar type of compliment. That type of praise is general and doesn’t reinforce specific behavior. The more specific your description is of the action, the more the child will internalize the adjectives you’ve used. You might find your four year old saying, “Look Mama! I’m resourceful!”

Jane Nelsen

Ask, don’t tell. There are many things parents want their children to do – like wear a coat because it’s cold outside or take their shoes off before they enter the house. Parents tend to tell their children what to do. For example, “It’s cold out there, put on your jacket please.” or “Hey! You know better than that! Take your shoes off before you walk onto the clean carpet!” Instead, parents should ask their children what they need to do. For example, “It’s cold outside, what do you need to do to stay warm?” or “I’m about to open the front door, what do you need to do before we enter the house?” This way the child feels as if s/he is making her own decisions, and is part of the decision making process.

Kim John Payne

Not disobedient, only disoriented. If I could give a tantrum a color it would be red, fiery red. Each time I was confronted with one when my children were little I would try and balance it with a response that was a deep, quiet blue.

But there is something bigger going on here.

Look back at the child’s day or even week. What was too fast, too much?  How could the pace of life be dialed back?  Tantrums are children’s way of telling us they’re overwhelmed; they often build up over a number of “whacko” disjointed days. It is unrealistic to expect something that has built up over time to end on a dime with a parental sharp “Stop it NOW!”  This will have you add to the overwhelm the child is experiencing. Sit as quietly and calmly as you can. Not easy I know. Sit down nearby. Assure the child “It’s hard to be so upset.” My favorite utterance while helping my own child recover from a temper storm, was a simple, quiet and repeatedly spoken “Oh dear.”

Please share your thoughts/anecdotes/musings about this topic below in the comments section.  We love hearing from you!

The Mother Company aims to support parents and their children, providing thought-provoking web content and products based in social and emotional learning for children ages 3-6. Check out the first episode of our children’s series, “Ruby’s Studio: The Feeling Show,” along with our beautiful children’s booksmusichandmade dolls, and more. We want to be a truly helpful parenting tool… For you!

Posted in: Behavioral Issues, Expert Advice, Discipline