Yesterday it was the bank. Thankfully, there was a drive-up teller.This morning it was the coffee shop. God bless the drive-thru there too. Now you’ve been in the grocery store parking lot for half an hour, waiting (no drive up grocery window). You sneak a peek in the rear view mirror. Your child is looking you right in the eye, daring you to try again, with a full arsenal of tantrums and whining ready to go.
So, you sit. Counting. Breathing. You know you have to figure this out. After all, you’re the grown-up. It’s time to take charge.
Whether you have a tantrum-throwing younger child or a door-slamming teen, you can probably relate to those slightly panicked parental moments that leave you unsure of how to discipline your child. If you feel out of control when it comes to your child’s behavior, take the wheel with these 5 discipline techniques that minimize parent-child power struggles and restore harmony to your family life.
1. Accentuate the Positive. Take a good look at your child before tempers rise and the battle is on. There is some really good stuff there. Did you notice your son make his bed without being asked? Did you hear your daughter offer her sibling help with that homework assignment? Be free with your praise and show appreciation for your child’s better choices and finer behavior. If your child experiences you as constantly nagging and criticizing, he or she may think it’s futile to try and please you. Let your child know that you recognize and celebrate the positives and that you want him or her to succeed. You’ll see that he or she will do what it takes to earn more approval and to maintain a good relationship with you.
2. Customize your approach. Our ideas about parenting and discipline are often shaped by our own upbringing, social pressure, or even our misguided attempts to be “perfect” parents. Your child needs you to set limits and guidelines that are tailored to him or her specifically. Watch and listen. Try to get a firm grasp on what matters to him or her. What irritates or soothes your child? How is his or her current developmental stage impacting his or her behavior right now? Remember that establishing appropriate boundaries in a compassionate way, and adhering to them consistently, keeps your child safe and teaches him or her important lessons.
3. Review your own reactions. Somewhere along the way, your child learned where your buttons were and how powerful it felt to push them. If you can see your part in your child’s pattern of misbehavior, you can begin to dismantle the conflict pattern. Do you anticipate a fight every morning before school? Do you expect your requests to melt down into repeated, ignored demands? Who is really in charge?
4. Keep your cool, keep your dignity. After a while, yelling and lectures become ineffective, or worse, ramp up offending behavior. Make your parental position clear by exhibiting a calm strength and sense of authority. Walk away quietly. Sometimes, you need the time out and your child needs to understand that your “no” is not up for debate.
5. Get support. Be ready for disciplinary challenges with the support of the other key adults in your child’s life. Make sure to keep your child’s other parent or caregivers in the loop about what you’re noticing and get their input as to how you can approach the inappropriate behaviors as a team. If you are constantly at odds with other caretakers, you might consider family counseling or co-parenting counseling to help you become a united front and a source of support for each other. Your child will more likely meet behavioral guidelines if limits are consistent among the parents and caregivers with whom they regularly interact.