DISCIPLINE VERSUS PUNISHMENT
As a parent, you may wonder what discipline strategies are the most effective. Is it wrong to raise your voice? Should you give your child a time-out or just an icy stare? It is essential to understand that discipline does not happen only when your child misbehaves. It is part of your education system that not only encourages proper behavior, but also promotes resilience, independence, strength of character, and solid values. There are two sides of discipline: proactive techniques that promote good behavior and reactive techniques used in the moment when your child is misbehaving. The more proactive you are, the less reactive you will need to be.
Here are a few proactive techniques to help you achieve those goals:
1. Determine the root of the problem. If your 5 year old throws a tantrum at night when going to bed, she might not be oppositional, but rather might have nightmares or be afraid of something. Then, figure out with her what could help her feel better. Maybe a nightlight and a picture of her parents on her nightstand. Involving your child in the solution will give her ownership over it and promotes self-discipline.
2. Be authoritative, not authoritarian. Setting limits is of course necessary, but if you make all the decisions and ask your child to follow your rules, then you ask your child to be obedient. Instead, let your child help establish the rules, set goals, compromise, and work as a team. For instance, your child may help devise a chore chart at home and an older child could help set limits on how much screen she is allowed to have on weekdays and weekends.
3. Make sure everyone is clear about the rules and their consequences if they are broken. Set realistic consequences and follow through. If you do not, your child learns you do not mean what you say. If you clarify your expectations and the consequences for poor behavior in advance, your child is more likely to behave properly the next time. For instance, if your children fight in the car, tell them before you leave that if they misbehave, you will pull over to the side of the road and wait until they are ready to stop.
4. Encourage your child, but limit rewards. Rewards can be motivating to a certain extent as you do not want your child to be so reward-focused than he does not want to do something unless there is an external incentive. A child’s main motivation to behave well should be her own sense of accomplishment, not just pleasing the adult. When you say to your child “I am proud of you”, you praise her, but when you say “You must be proud of yourself”, then you encourage her. Encouragement is an essential component of education as it teaches your child to seek inner satisfaction rather than looking for constant approval. Your child needs to learn how to self-evaluate instead of relying on others.
Keep in mind that discipline has two functions: one is to ensure that children have a consistent and a safe environment in which they can learn and understand the importance of reasonable rules and limits and the second is to nurture self-discipline that will help them develop resilience and let them deal with frustration and mistakes.
CULTIVATING SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE FOR TODDLERS
Teaching social skills to toddlers might look like a big challenge as young children face several difficulties. First, they learn to manage their emotions, then they need to develop empathy towards others, and finally they have to learn to express their feelings and needs while respecting their peers. So, as a parent, your role is to assist them in developing their emotional intelligence.
Here are a few strategies to help your toddler:
1. Show empathy. When children receive a lot of empathy for their own feelings from the adults in their environment, then they develop empathy towards others early. Empathy being the cornerstone of successful interpersonal relationships, it is essential to cultivate it at a young age.
2. Do not force your toddler to share. Although it is a common belief to think that toddlers need to share, it is indeed counterproductive if your child is not ready. First, children need to feel secure in their ownership before being able to share. So, the first concept is to learn to take turns.
3. Stay close during playgroups. Toddlers who hit during social interactions do it because they feel overwhelmed by their emotions and do not know yet how to handle them. If an adult is there when the hitting is happening, then the adult can coach the child how to manage the situation without hitting. For instance, you can say: “Yes, Calvin took your bucket…is that okay with you? No? You can say “My bucket!” If your toddler knows you are here, she will feel safer, learn strategies to express herself without hitting.
4. Teach assertiveness to your child. If your toddler often lets other kids take away things from her and seems unhappy about it, then show her how to stand up for herself. For instance, tell her “If you are not ready to give that up, you can say “I am still playing with it.” Until your child develops her own language skills, you will need to be her “voice” when she plays with others.
5. Set clear limits on physical aggression. Children are entitled to their feelings, but they need to learn to express them appropriately. For instance, tell your child “You can tell us and show us how mad you are without hitting. You can call me, and I will always help you. Now, let’s tell Laura how you are feeling. You can say NO and stomp your feet as hard as you want.”
6. Give your child language for their feelings. It is never too early to start labeling emotions. This will help your toddler process her emotions verbally instead of physically. For instance, say “It is so frustrating when you work hard on your tower and it collapses like that. No wonder you are angry.”
Social skills are a crucial factor in predicting a child’s happiness in life. Studies show that it is indeed more critical than academic or financial success. So, give your children plenty of opportunities to develop and cultivate emotional intelligence.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.