A Better Way, Part 2
Don’t be a nag
Why is it important to keep words to a minimum when disciplining your child? Because, as I often remind parents, words are like tires. Each time they rotate against the pavement, they lose tread and become less efficient at starting, stopping, and steering. If you spin words out endlessly, they’ll become less efficient at starting, stopping, and steering your child. Eventually, your words will have no “traction” at all — as tires will eventually become bald.
If the chatterbox parent is ineffective, so is the parent who barks orders like a drill sergeant. To break the yelling habit, tell yourself that you won’t open your mouth until you’re calm enough to speak at a normal volume and in a cordial tone. Often, all it takes to calm down is to spend a few minutes alone — something as simple as excusing yourself to get a glass of water may do the trick.
Taking time to cool off will also help you avoid the last and most counterproductive element of ignore-nag-yell-punish.
Punishment vs. undoing and redoing
Parents often assume that by punishing a misbehaving child, they’re helping to build the child’s conscience. Not so. In most cases, harsh punishments, like spanking, simply encourage a child to become sneaky so as to not get caught next time. (They may even cause your child to doubt your love for her.)
A better approach is to impose consequences that are appropriate to the offense and respectful of your child. Ideally, the consequence you impose for a particular misbehavior will involve undoing or redoing the situation. The consequence for carelessly spilling milk, for example, might be that your child cleans up the mess (undoing), and then pours another glass and sets it in a safer place (redoing). No need to blame or yell. No need to impose harsh punishment (for example, withholding food).
If you’re careful to recognize your first steps down the ignore-nag-yell-punish path — and to substitute the strategies I’ve described — you’ll find yourself on a different path, one that leads to a more harmonious relationship with your child. It’s a trip I highly recommend.
This article comes from the February/March 2007 issue of ADDitude.