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Often, we equate the term discipline with punishment. But the word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina, which means teaching, learning. Thats the key to correcting our kids behaviors giving them the tools they need to learn a better behavior. When we discipline in a way meant only to punish and have the child pay for their mistake, it doesnt help our child learn how to make the right choice next time. No one likes being ordered around punishment can lead to power struggles, and because our kids know this poor behavior gets them attention, theyll keep doing it.
When it comes to knowing how to discipline your child, we can focus on three key areas: giving them the positive attention they need and crave, taking time for training, and setting limits and sticking to them.
1. Fill the Attention Basket
Kids need attention, plain and simple. If we dont keep that attention basket full with positive attention, kids will seek out any attention they can get even negative attention. Theyll push our buttons with negative behaviors because to a kid, even negative attention is better that no attention at all. This doesnt mean you have to be at your childs side 24-7 just taking a few minutes a day to spend one-on-one with your child, distraction-free and doing something they want to do, will reap immense rewards in their behavior.
Take 10 minutes once or twice a day with each child playing a game theyve picked or reading their favorite book. Let the phone ring. Stick the cell phone in the closet. When you fill your childrens attention baskets positively and proactively, your kids will become more cooperative and less likely to seek out attention in negative ways. Life is busy for everyone, and finding extra time in the day may be daunting at first, but think of this as an investment in your relationship with your children and in improving their behavior. When it comes to knowing how to discipline your child, giving them what they need to avoid poor behaviors in the first place can have a great impact.
2. Take Time for Training
As you think about how to discipline your child, its important to remember that the word discipline is rooted in meanings of learning and teaching. The best way to discipline your child is to help her make better choices. You can role play the behaviors, using a calm voice. Id really like to play with that tractor when youre done. Id like a snack, please. Switch roles and pretend youre the child, and let your little one direct you through making better choices. Be encouraging when they do make the right choices. I see you worked hard to clean up the playroom all on your own! Thats such a big help. I really appreciate it. Thank you for sharing the book with your brother. How kind!
3. Set Limits and Stick to Them
Kids thrive when they have structure and know their boundaries. Dont go overboard with hundreds of rules, but focus on whats most important for your family. Be clear about the ground rules and what happens when someone breaks the rules make sure that everyone understands the consequences ahead of time and that the discipline is related to the misbehavior. If they forget to put away their dishes after dinner, they have to load and unload the dishwasher. Cleaning their room because they didnt do their homework isnt related. Most importantly, be consistent. Follow through every time with the agreed-upon consequence when kids push the rules.
Overall, remember that knowing how to discipline your child is rooted in helping them learn how to make the right choice, not punishment. Be firm and give them the attention, rules and boundaries they need.