Families have been spending a lot more time together at home because of COVID-19. More than likely we find ourselves being challenged by our children’s behaviors like we have not experienced before. As a preschool teacher, I have learned strategies to turn even the mundane into fun by using positive discipline.
Positive discipline is proactive rather than reactive. It prevents many behavior issues and ensures that children are actively learning from their mistakes. In my experience, it is the best way to teach children to be self-disciplined – that is, one who is motivated to behave and is well-adjusted. Too much discipline or the lack of it can cause problems. Teaching good behavior takes time and effort.
Remember no parent is perfect, there will be moments when you just do not have the creative energy to get your child to behave in a positive way or successfully cope with power struggles. It does not mean you are a bad parent; it just means you’re human! Here are some preschool teacher-tested techniques to make discipline less stressful and more effective:
Be Sure Your Response Is Age Appropriate
You would not expect a toddler to share but it would be reasonable to expect a five-year-old to do so.
Tell Children What They Can Do Instead of What They Cannot
Let them make up their mind. Your child needs your help to become more independent, so whenever possible let her make the decision, such as what food she wants to eat or toys she wants to play with. Giving choices helps her develop independence. Do you want an apple or an orange? Offer choices only when you can abide by them.
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Ditch the Drama!
Try to avoid scenes that trigger difficult behavior; tantrums need an audience. If the grocery store provokes meltdowns, leave your child home if possible. Be attentive. If you see a storm brewing, try to distract or redirect your child. Steer her attention away from a negative activity to something more acceptable. For example, “You can’t write on the wall; would you like some paper?”
Establish Reasonable Limits
Limits that are consistently maintained protect a child’s well-being, while shaping character. Simply state commands and consistently enforce them. Say, “Screen time is over. It’s time to go to bed now. I will help you get ready.”
Try to ignore attention-seeking behavior if the behavior is not rude, dangerous, or destructive. Doing this can cajole your child into behaving appropriately.
Keep It Short and Sweet
Lengthy, involved explanations can be confusing. Avoid too many rules, keep it simple, and give brief explanations in a positive way. For example, “No throwing blocks. Blocks are for building. Let’s build a tower together!”
Catch Kids Being Good
Praise rather than criticize, and notice when your child does the right thing. Be specific when you tell them what they did that was good. Offer praise for that achievement verbally or nonverbally. Give a high five or say, “I like when you share with your little sister or say thank you.” It makes good sense to notice and comment when you see your child behaving well. Children do what gives them attention.
Do not label them. For instance, calling your child “a naughty girl” or “a naughty boy” may encourage them to live up to the label. Instead, separate the action from the child and say, “That was a naughty thing to do.” Take the focus off the individual and deal with the behavior.
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Children not only need attention for good behavior they need affirmations for simply being. For example, “I am so glad you are my child,” or “I love spending time with you.” Send the message that you love them regardless of behavior.
Walk the Talk
Model good behavior and set a good example as much as possible by speaking and acting in ways you expect your child to behave.
Acknowledge Children’s Feelings
You cannot stop your child from feeling frustrated or angry, but you can teach her healthy, not hurtful, ways to express herself: “I know you’re angry, but I can’t let you hit your brother,” or “Why don’t you use your words to tell your brother you would like to play with his truck?”
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Dawn Marie Barhyte is a widely published author with over a hundred articles to her credit. A former early childhood educator and co-director who continues to touch the lives of families through her writing! She lives and works in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY with her beloved husband and rescue chihuahua dachshund.