How to Discipline Your Child Without Spanking
The key to effective discipline is to have the right heart behind any disciplinarian tactic. Discipline comes from the love one has for their child. Every parent wants their child to grow up to be responsible, respectful, honest adults, yet parents choose to let things slide because punishing a child is often harder than not punishing. Then they seem bewildered that their children get "out of hand."
Many parents give mixed messages to their children, by yelling empty threats. It is extremely important to follow through with any threat given. If the punishment is too harsh or impossible, then don't threaten it. For instance, if a mom says, "If you do that one more time, we are going to march right out of this store." That mom better be prepared to leave the cart, because they may just test that boundary to see if she really means what she said. If leaving a cart full of groceries is unrealistic, then keep that in mind before giving that threat. Maybe, "If you do that one more time, we will not be getting (a sugary cereal/pop tarts/gummy snacks)" would be a better option, and easier to follow through.
Is Spanking an Effective Punishment?
So what kind of threats should you give then. Being creative with your discipline is probably the most effective way to punish a child. A child who always gets put in time-out will get used to it, and it will lose its discomfort. I personally try to find a punishment that fits the crime. For instance, all the kids I am in charge of know sliding down steps, hanging on stair railing, tumbling down stairs (especially head first), etc. results in walking up and down the stairs X (x = their age) number of times. I have even heard the response, oh no, as they start to slide down and get caught. They stand up and start walking without me saying a word. The frequency of the sliding becomes less and less, because they are more apt to think twice before doing it again.
There are so many ways you can get creative with your discipline.For instance:
Talking mean = Writing Nice Things About The Person They were Mean To
Screaming = Require X amount of minutes of silence
Bad Behavior in a store = Must stay home for a week (only if possible and only if child likes going to store, do not threaten if not a possibility)
Throwing a toy = Take away the toy until they can prove they respect their/your things for 24 hours (longer for older children)
Although, no matter how you choose to discipline, you should always follow up with a talk, preferably a calm one explaining to them:
- Why their behavior was unacceptable.
- What they should do instead.
- Future consequences if they continue to disobey rules.
More Creative Parenting Tips
There are so many ways to be creative, but sometimes traditional punishments are best. There is no equation for effective discipline, because discipline is not a science it is an art. You need to look at each child separately. You wouldn't use the same techniques with oil paints as watercolor. If you want your child to be more loving, bring more expressions of love in your discipline. If you want to see more obedience, then make sure there is a consequence every time they directly disobey, not just fifty percent of the time. Unlike art, you don't have full control of the finished product, but the more love and patience you put into your child the more beautiful the outcome.
Other Great, Effective Ways to Handle Discipline:
Writing As a Punishment: This is more for older children, at least seven or eight. There are a few ways you can handle this, either by making them write lines, an apology letter, or my personal favorite making them write what they did, what they should have done differently, and the feelings of those involved. Eight years old is a great age to implement this discipline.
Taking Away Valued Toy: The most important part of taking away a toy is making the child earn the toy back. Don't just say, it will be taken away for an hour, two days, a week. Say, I will take it away for at least (given time) and if you do not do undesired behavior in that amount of time, you may have it back. Let's say, they lied to you, take it away and if they lie to you again say, "Teddies time is starting over." If they are older, take away a second time, and they have to earn both toys back separately.
Taking Away Privilege:This is my favorite, because it's so darn effective. The mere threat does wonders. It has to be a coveted privilege. I often will take away screen time, which means no video games, computer, TV, etc. Another privilege is music player, bike, and when I've gotten really mad, talking privileges. Yes, I have taken away the right to talk for five minutes or so, but make sure you are willing to follow through with it. For instance, don't say they won't get to go to zoo, if you don't have a sitter lined up and there are three other kids you are taking to the zoo. Remember that taking away privileges are often times punishing yourself as well. So ask yourself can I live a week without allowing TV time for said child? That's something I don't think kids realize is how inconvenient punishments are. We don't like doing them. It's harder to discipline than to not. I also have started implementing electronic death. That is screen time plus music. Oh my goodness, the heart break when that punishment is given. It's usually done for big issues like lying, hitting, or mean talk.
No treat / dessert / bedtime snack: Now I don't believe in sending a child to bed hungry, but not allowing them a treat, dessert, or even a bedtime snack is completely acceptable. This is a really great punishment for not eating food. My daughter knows that if she does not eat her entire plate, she will not get candy/cookies/etc. She has downed asparagus, grudgingly, just to get the coveted tootsie roll.
Time Outs: Many people are skeptical of time outs. There are a few times I think it is essential. Tantrums, whether they've lost their temper as teens or throwing themselves on the ground, they need a moment to cool themselves off. The second is if you are incredibly angry. It is better for them to sit in their rooms than hear you scream. Once you've calmed down ask yourself what do I need to talk to them about? Is further discipline necessary. One little girl I nannied for could elevate my blood pressure. She would argue with everything. She knew how to push my buttons. I often sent her to her room more to help myself than to discipline her. I knew she didn't need to see me lose it. That does no good. So I'd send her to her room, when I calmed down, we'd talk and sometimes I would apologize.
Early bedtime: This can be for a multitude of reasons. For instance, not getting ready in a timely manner in the morning, for being disrespectful, for being grumpy. I have often said, "You are yelling a lot today, are you feeling tired." The answer is always no. The next time I hear yelling, I'll say, you know I can tell you are tired, if you prove to me you are not tired with a good attitude, I'll let you stay up until your bedtime, but if you cant' prove to me that you are not tired by having a good attitude then you'll go to bed fifteen minute early. This may need to be increased as bad behavior continues.
Teaching Children to Be More Responsible
I also strongly believe kids should understand what the consequences are for their actions. They need to understand why the undesired behavior is undesired. One very effective way to do this is have them take care of their own messes. Some may be hesitant to have a three year old help, either thinking they are incapable or its inappropriate, but don't underestimate them. If a child throws their food on the ground - make them wipe it up. If they stick stickers on the wall -make them pull them down, color on the walls - have them scrub for X amount of minutes. Then grab soft scrub and wash the wall (it always does the trick without wrecking the paint job.)
The best example for this type of behavior is when the twin girls had just turned four, they stuck stickers all over their door. They knew this was wrong since I had already told them not to do it the day before, and had just got done cleaning the door. So this time, I took both girls and told them they were responsible for pulling the stickers off since they put them on. Some may feel they were too young to make do this, but they were not. I let them work on it for four minutes since they were four at the time, then I stepped in and took over. But I did make them stay with me, to see how long it took me to clean up. They were not allowed to play in a different room.
This was effective, because it showed them how hard it is to clean up the mess so they realized why they shouldn't do it in the future. By making them take responsibility for their own actions, it teaches them natural consences and responsibility. This, believe it or not, also helps build confidence in their own abilities. Granted the younger they are the more help they'll need in cleaning up their own mess, but be careful not to underestimate them. Just let the record show, this was the last time they did it.
Reasons These Methods Won't Work
Lack of Respect
I've heard friends who say, my kids would never listen to me if I tried some of these techniques. If that's the case then there is a severe lack of respect that needs to be addressed. There are a few reasons that a child may be disrespecting you. One reason may be because they don't really know what to expect.
For instance, if you do not consistently punish them. Like you say, "I'm going to take that toy away if you throw it." They throw it, and you yell, "I told you not to throw it," yet do nothing. They have learned that they are not being held accountable for their actions. That the punishments don't apply. So if you say, "Don't call your sister names, or you'll sit in time out." Then they call her a name. So you say, "Go in timeout." They might think, they can get out of it, by being resistant and refusing. Since they were able to get away without punishments before, why not this time. One way to break this pattern is by being consistent. They know that if you say they will have a punishment that you are serious, and they will be punished.
Punishing is hard. Time outs can be, until the child knows what to expect. If your child gets out, put her back in timeout. Continue process until the child stays in time out for a given amount of time.
Anger or Grief
Another reason your child might not be respecting you is they are dealing with anger or grief. In these cases the anger and grief need to be addressed before any changes will truly occur. Although it's important for them to know you still hold them to the same rules, a softer approach is necessary. In severe cases, don't be afraid to seek out a counselor. There is no shame in it. The sooner the child can handle these emotions the sooner other issues can be taken care of.
Reward Good Behavior
Above all else, it's not all about the discipline, make sure you are rewarding good work, hard work, and giving lots of praise. This is a necessary part of discipline and should not be forgotten. Bottom line: discipline is hard work. It's inconveient, its frustrating, but just as all hard work does, it will pay off in the end.
Positive Parenting: Don't Be a Dictator
There are times when you have to let things slide. That being said never let it slide if you had given them a threat of a discipline. By backing down shows there is no consequence for their action. When I say let things slide, I mean pick your battles. If you harp on them about everything they are doing wrong, they'll feel like they don't do anything right. Choose your battles carefully. There are going to be days where you swear there must be a full-moon out because the kids are wound up and doing everything naughty they can think of. That's when you need to choose the battles that are most important.
For instance, is it more important that you scold Little Bobby for using his outside voice indoors, or should you scold him for dangling his sister off the balcony? Okay, maybe that's a little severe, but you get my point. There are days when the little stuff needs to be ignored or you'll drive yourself insane, and your kids too.
© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz