7 Alternatives to Spanking and Harsh Discipline Practices
Even the most well meaning parents may find themselves yelling or spanking their child in a moment of anger. This often happens because the parent feels out of control, or because the child's misbehavior has gone on far too long. Gentle discipline doesn't mean no discipline at all, nor does it mean permissive or ineffective discipline. If you're endeavoring to parent gently, you need tools and skills to draw from when your kids push the boundaries. Here are some tips that have helped other parents.
1) Plan Ahead
One of the principles of good discipline is planning ahead. Instead of reacting all the time to your child's misbehavior, sit down and make a list of behaviors that are bothering you the most. Pick two or three to work on improving. Then sit down and talk with your child about these issues (depending on his or her age and maturity level) and ask for his help. Tell him that you would rather not spank or punish and ask your child how you can help enforce the family's rules. You might be surprised at the answers he comes up with.
Keep a notebook handy and write down behaviors that seem to push your "buttons", as soon as they occur and before you decide how to react. This gives you a little distance from your emotions and makes it easier to discipline with love and principle. You might have to explain to your child that you're upset and need a few moments to think about what to do.
3) Express Yourself
In the heat of the moment, it's easy to fall into the shame, blame game. Instead of saying something you'll regret, tell your child how you feel using "I" statements. For instance, "I feel so angry right now because there is paint all over the wall. I don't like when my walls are painted on." Don't be afraid to be honest with your feelings. Often your children will be moved to make amends when you express yourself without demeaning them. This communication tool teaches your child valuable relationship skills.
4) Mommy Time Out
If you find yourself getting upset by a child's behavior, try removing yourself from the situation for a few minutes. Tell your child that you are upset and need a few moments to calm down, and that you will talk about what happened when you return. With very young children who can't be left unsupervised, just closing your eyes for a moment and explaining to your toddler that "Mommy needs to be quiet for a minute. Go play with your toys and then I will talk with you." Then breathe deep, call a friend, go outside for a quick walk, or pray so that you can get perspective on the situation.
5) Use One Word
It's extremely frustrating to tell a child the same reminder over and over. But instead of yelling or lecturing, try to phrase the request or reminder in just one word. This can be refreshing to the child and the parent too. As an example, let's say you have a child who consistently leaves his shoes in the doorway and you've tripped on them one too many times. Instead of going into a tirade, try simply stating: "Shoes!". It's ok to be animated. He'll probably know what you're talking about immediately and solve the problem without another word.
Laughter is one of the best ways to immediately cut tension and garner a child's cooperation. The next time the kids are at each other's throats, pick up the phone and make a pretend 911 call to the police asking for Barney Fife to come break up the fight. Don a face mask and gloves and tape a biohazard sign on the door when you enter your child's room to nudge him into cleaning mode. Buy a foam baseball bat and knock him playfully. You'll probably both end up laughing.
7) Educate yourself
Knowing what you can reasonably expect of your child developmentally will avoid you setting yourself (and your child) up for disappointment. For example, it's unrealistic to expect a 5 year old to understand property rights (meaning that kids this age often steal, no matter what they're taught). It's also unrealistic to expect an 8 year old boy to have perfect table manners. Just as you don't expect a newborn to sleep through the night or a toddler to cross the street alone, don't expect more of your kids than they can reasonably perform. Reading parenting books can help with that, as well as talking with other, especially older parents whose kids have grown through these stages of development.
Parenting isn't easy - it's a lot of work. It requires patience, flexibility and a great sense of humor. But it can be a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and the rewards are there for those who work at it.
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