Being a good parent can be difficult. We are never really taught how to raise children effectively, and generally tend to repeat behaviors we have learned from our own parents. If we grew up in a dysfunctional environment, this can lead to our replicating the same mistakes we witnessed and experienced as children when our turn to become parents comes around.
Many parents who come to see me ask how they can learn better parenting skills. They often feel ineffectual when trying to discipline their children, but do not know what they can do differently. The following are some effective tools to use in order to bring about a little more order in your household:
1. Praise Your Children
Any time you catch your child being good, make sure you let him or her know how appreciative you are of his or her good behavior. Everyone responds in positive ways to praise, children included, so this will encourage your child to behave in desirable ways.
2. Use Behavioral Incentives
In order to inspire your kids to do their chores, put a chart or calendar up on the wall listing, day by day, the tasks you want them to complete. This could include things such as taking out the trash or setting the table for dinner, but you can also include behaviors such as doing their homework, brushing their teeth, or being nice to siblings.
When the child performs the desired behaviors, he or she gets to put a sticker on the chart for the day. As your child accumulates a certain number of stickers, he or she can earn special incentives that are known ahead of time. These could be anything from choosing a favorite dinner, going on a special outing, watching a movie that your child has been looking forward to, or anything else he or she would enjoy.
For very young children, it can be helpful to break down the day into shorter periods in order to reward desired behaviors more quickly. You may want to have them be able to earn three stickers a day, for example—for the morning, afternoon, and evening. Even if they are not successful for the entire day, they can at least be rewarded for shorter time periods and will gradually want to earn more and more stickers and rewards.
3. Use Consistent Discipline Techniques
When your children misbehave, they need to understand the specific behaviors you do not want them to do. Let them know what they are doing wrong, then provide a warning. Your explanations should be very clear and simple, so that they understand exactly which were the problem behaviors.
When your children misbehave, they need to understand the specific behaviors you do not want them to do.
If a child continues to misbehave, put him or her in a designated area away from the rest of the family that has been chosen for time-outs. Make sure that the child remains in the designated spot for the entire time-out period. The time-out should not last more than several minutes, but the child should not be allowed to talk or play during this time.
At the end of the time-out period, reiterate to your child the reason that he or she was put in time-out and ask for an apology. Consistency is very important when it comes to teaching children appropriate behavior, so the time-out strategy should be used every time your child misbehaves after having been given an initial, unheeded warning.
4. Communicate with Your Child
If your child is acting uncharacteristically poorly, attempt to find out what may be going on. Children have a tendency to act out when they are being picked on at school or sense tension within the family. Try talking with them to find out if they are upset about something you are unaware of so you can address any potential problems.
5. Maintain a Structured Routine
Children respond well to structure, so try to have meals and bedtime at the same time every day. When kids become overly tired, they may be more prone to acting out, so make sure they are getting enough rest.
Using the techniques above can help to make for a more peaceful home environment. If you are still having problems managing your child’s behavior or your child has recently become more fearful, angry, or aggressive, meeting with a psychotherapist may be helpful in order to explore the underlying reasons for the behaviors and to get your child back on track.
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