Monday, March 7, 2011

A little bit about discipline


I want to write a quick post about discipline. As a former nanny I do not believe that there is a cookie cutter approach that works for all children in all situations. There are a few ways that I have handled inappropriate toddler behaviour over the years. This is concerning toddler as JJ is only 15months old. As children get older discipline methods grow with them and communication becomes and essential part of it. 

Firstly all children are curious by nature, they like to explore, see how things work, push limit and model us. If your child is doing something behaviorally that you do not like, before you discipline them ask why are they doing that. Are they throwing their food over the highchair because they love to see it hit the floor? Or maybe they are done eating and can't tell you that they are all done. 
My son LOVES to play with my cell phone, camera and laptop. He isn't doing these things because he is naughty. He is doing them because he sees me do them and he thinks I am cool and wants to be just like mummy. Consider this their way of showing their love. 

IGNORE: I do this for small no sweat things as long as they are safe. For example they might be throwing their food on the floor, or slamming doors, or letting out an ear piecing scream. Sometimes they are experimenting about the world other times they want attention, even if it is negative. Doing anything at this point only feeds that attention and will make them do it again. Make sure to give them attention for good behavior.

REDIRECT: If your child is constantly hitting the dog, you can take their hand and guide it in big long strokes to show gentleness. Or if they are throwing things in the trash can, give them a laundry basket and have them throw their toys into that instead. Or just distract them with anther task. 

TONE: Often times some kids might be about to do something, like plug a cord into an outlet. Just using a firm NO *insert name* is enough to stop them. 

ASSOCIATION: I use this with tenacious children that constantly go back to doing something even if they have been redirected or told no. I create an unpleasant association to the undesirable act. For example... the other day JJ ripped the outlet protector off the outlet. I yelled DANGER (it is our big bad no no word) and clapped my hands very loudly near him. This made him jumped and even scared him a little. He tried to go back to the outlet again. I yelled DANGER and clapped my hands and stomped my feet. This time it made him cry. Lesson learned. He will not go near that outlet now. When he is walking and he sees it, he even moves away from it. 

RECIPROCATE: I have general concerns about this. If your child bites or hits you and you bite or hit them back you may be letting them know it hurts, but you are also letting them know that it is okay to bite, hit, pull hair, etc. When they are older I think that it works. Or to have it done to them by another child is much different than it being done by the parent that they trust. You can ask them to pull their own hair to then ask them how it feels. Right now the best way to indicate that it hurts you is to say a sharp OUCH. Or to tell them No, that hurts mommy, we do not hit, bite. etc. 

TIME-OUT: I think that many are familar with this. I don't like traditional time out. 1 min to childs age etc. 1 min is not that long, especially because the child has very little concept of time at 15 months. However we do practice a kind of child led time out. More like a banishment. JJ gets 3 warnings, then I point my finger and tell him to go to his room, you could use a corner of the room. He runs howling down the hallway and comes back out when HE is ready. He either gets the gist that what he was doing was not good and it gets him banished, or he has forgotten about what he doing. Either way, it works and it is out main way we discipline him. Which is maybe once every week or two. 

LEGITIMIZING EMOTIONS: This generally applies to tantrums. Kids are just like us they have real feelings. I don't know about anyone else but when I am having a bad day I don't want to be told to sit in the corner for 30mins and to have a timeout. Kids are the same. Sometimes they need to cuddle and cry all the yucky out, or they might need to throw a few things until they get out all that frustration. What I have done with all the kids I have worked with is to give them tools to deal with their emotions. I explain that it is okay to be angry that they can come to me for a hug anytime. Or they can go to their room and punch pillows etc. With JJ I say James is MAD and we *stomp stomp stomp* our feet. He has what we call the mad mat, it crinkles and plays music. When he is being bratty and having tantrums I ask him if he is mad and then send him to stomp on his mad mat. He gets over it pretty quickly.

Lastly and most importantly... RESPECT: Get down on your kids level, look them in the eye. Let them know that what they have to say IS important. You can show them this respect but also let them know that you are the parent. Children learn things from us. We want them to learn compassion, empathy, respect and strength right? Show this to your child.