That moment when your adorable, kind, loving child can suddenly say or do something that you never expected, or even hurt your feelings. It will be then and there that you will need to make a huge effort to not lose your calm and practice child discipline in love. Love mixed with firm discipline is what produces functional happy children.
Parenting children can feel like preparing for world tournament, giving correction for the same behaviors over and over again, often with no improvement. When children disobey a clear instruction or expectation, parental anger can surge as a response. However, the most important ingredients in child’s discipline is love.
As you train your child towards better behavior, remember to discipline with love and set the perfect dynamic for your discipline. Here are 14 Ways to discipline children in love;
1. Say “I love you” when you discipline children.
Make it a commitment to tell your child you love him/her, even when you ask them for better behavior or explain why you are unhappy with something they did. Yes, sometimes you may get the “Well, I don’t love you!” response, but that’s par for the course. When you don’t give up, you guide your child toward understanding that family members can have conflict or disagree, but should never forget how much they love each other.
2. Put your battles into perspective.
Some bothersome behavior, such as cheeky response, bold disobedience or open resistance are often encountered at some stage in child development, but be calm, be in authority and discipline in love. Talk to your child in a nice way, while reminding him/her to also speak to you respectfully—you set the tone and lead them down the path you want them to follow.
3. Look for the root instigator.
Have there been any significant changes in your home recently? Could something be bothering her at school? When your child is ready to talk, try to get to the root instigator of her behavior.
4. Keep Your Promise.
Children need reliability and structure, even with discipline. When you promise chocolate, buy it, because they won’t forget. They will remind you of your promise, same way that when you attach consequence to a particular behavior, you should follow through with promised consequences, children are more likely to abide by rules in the future.
By giving in to bad behavior, you are sending a message that the behavior is acceptable.
The next time your child throws a tantrum? Instead of bending to his (very loud) demands, simply say, “I’m sorry, but that’s not how we get what we want. If you want something, you need to ask nicely.” Ignore the remainder of the fit and it will cease quickly.
5. Stop Yelling.
Yelling and love don’t agree, unless you’re yelling “I love you!”. When we scream at our children, we might get their attention but their interpretation of what we’re saying will be tinged with things other than love, such as fear or anger.
So when it’s time to discipline, try to stay calm. If at any point, you feel like you’re going to lose it, leave the room until you can pull yourself together. Loving discipline requires us to keep a clear head so that we can talk to our children and reach their hearts as well as their ears.
6. Give Lots of Hug.
Physical affection outside of discipline time is a crucial element of disciplining with love. Physical touch such as hugs, a kiss on the cheek, a pat on the back, a thump up, a handshake are tangible reminders to your child that you love him/her. And if you’ve established a bond of touch in your relationship with your child, it will be all the more natural to conclude your time of discipline with a reassuring and reconnecting hug.
7. Explain Don’t Detonate.
It’s okay to have high standards for your child, as long as you can explain your reasoning. You don’t have to justify yourself when you discipline your children, but if you want them to learn the lesson behind the discipline, take the time to explain it. Even if your child is still very young to understand your logic, it is never too early to start making good habits. It won’t be long before your child understands your reasoning perfectly—even if he/she pretends not to understand a word of it.
The next time your child breaks a house rule, explain why that behavior is not acceptable. “We don’t play with electricity because they are dangerous and could hurt you.”
By reminding them of the consequences of their behavior, you are letting them come up with the needed action step themselves. You didn’t tell them not to touch the electricity, you only pointed out what could happen.
8. Stick to the facts.
When we get angry with our children, it’s easy to throw in a few striking remark when we’re disciplining them. What don’t your tiny head understand about leaving that room? Does that scream love to you? Where there is love, there will be respect. Even though we’re the boss, we can still treat our children with respect when we’re disciplining them. Love and public shaming are incompatible.
9. Build Trust Not Fear
Parents with no rules and no boundaries are not showing a sign of trust but a lack of concern. This will never lead to the bond and security we are hoping for. While it is okay to be our child’s best friend, we need to be their parent, first and foremost. We need to be able to convey to our children that just because something is wrong and we are upset, our love for them remains steadfast and ever-present. We also need to remember that instilling fear creates walls instead of healthy boundaries. We want our children to be able to trust us and talk to us because we offer support and guidance as well as structure and direction. Fear does not offer this. When our children fear us, they will end up deceiving us.
10. Your Action Should Be A Guide
When it comes to instructing our children, we do so primarily in how we behave. The majority of human communication is done non-verbally. As a parent, knowing this about non-verbal communication, don’t say things, do the right things! We need to teach our children not only how to act but how to interact.
We tell our kids not to swear, to respect each other, to behave and then we turn around and use an same sentence on the phone, degrade our spouses, and refuse to cooperate with our own peers. What is likely the end result that our children will learn? We are likely to face the mirror of our own actions when we live the motto of “do as I say, not as I do.” If we want our children to model patience, kindness and forgiveness, they need to see this lived out in our lives first.
11. Praise Your Child For Good Behavior
Praise is when you tell, notice or reward your child about his/her behavior that you like or appreciate. When your child gets praise for behaving well, she’s likely to want to keep behaving well.
Descriptive praise is when you tell your child exactly what it is that you like. It’s best for encouraging good behavior.
12. Hear them out.
Listening is important. Let your child finish the story before helping to solve the problem. Watch for times when misbehavior has a pattern, like if your child is feeling jealous. Talk with your child about this rather than just giving consequences.
13. Know when not to respond.
As long as your child isn’t doing something dangerous and gets plenty of attention for good behavior, ignoring bad behavior can be an effective way of stopping it. Ignoring bad behavior can also teach children natural consequences of their actions.
14. Be kind but firm as you Show empathy and respect.
In your child’s mind, what he/she did was right and justified. It can be very frustrating when they insist on some wrong behavior as being right. As parents, instead of arguing back, we just need to stay calm and repeat what we said in a kind manner but very firmly. For instance, repeat “Biting hurts, we do not hit our friends” and different variants of it, over and over without losing temper or raising voice. It also helps to show some empathy.
In summary, discipline with love. The most powerful tool we possess in our generation today is the bond of love we forge with our children. The stronger the bond, the more our children will want to listen and to please us.
As we work on the “love bond” we will help our children to accept and respect our authority.
P/S. Remind yourself that your relationship with your child is strong and loving, and can be made stronger when you work on solving problems together.
- Dr. Holly RuhL
Holly Ruhl, PhD is a Developmental Psychologist with a background in research and teaching. Her areas of expertise are promoting healthy attachment relationships between parents and children, as well as fostering healthy eating behaviors. She writes at The Freethinking Mama.
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