Getting kids to behave the way you want them to can be a lot like nailing Jell-O to a tree. But a recent article in the Wall Street Journal delves into smarter ways to discipline your child. While it’s nothing ground-breaking, it serves as an excellent reminder than negativity isn’t the way to get kids to behave. So whether this gives you some insight into new discipline tactics, or reinforces what you already do, here’s the general strategy outlined for smarter discipline.
The strategy: instead of focusing on the times when discipline is necessary, decide how you want to see your kids behaving. Then, praise them for those behaviors.
This sounds simple, but in real life can be tough. People’s brains have a "negativity bias," says Alan E. Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University and director of the Yale Parenting Center. We pay more attention to when kids misbehave than when they act like angels. Dr. Kazdin recommends at least three or four instances of praise for good behavior for every timeout a kid gets. For young children, praise needs to be effusive and include a hug or some other physical affection, he says.
Of course, your kids not perfect, so when they behave in a way you don’t want them to, don’t shout. The strategy, which is in tandem with an approach called “parent management training,” is best served when the parent reprimands the child with “mild negative consequences … reprimands and negative nonverbal responses like stern looks, timeouts, and taking away other privileges led to greater compliance by kids.”
This isn’t a short-term strategy that means your kids will start behaving better tomorrow; rather, this is a long-term solution that requires parental perseverance. One thing that can derail your discipline attempts: giving your kids “vague, conditional commands and not giving kids enough time to comply with them.” Reasoning with your child is also not the most effective way to change behavior, and overly-harsh punishments lead to kids not listening, not complying, and acting out.
Of course, there isn’t one solution that fits every kid, but parenting is all about finding the best solutions for you and your child. But if you’re looking to have a little fun and be effective, when your kid is whining about something or other, don’t hesitate to whine right along with him. Most likely you’ll both end up in a fit of giggles.
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