I must admit that handling kids who misbehave is way more challenging than I thought when I wasn’t a mom yet. Thankfully, there are many resources and communities now that aid parents in handling meltdowns, mischiefs, or plain old, misbehavior.
Here are some tips shared by moms on disciplining young children.
Start with Why
Before even thinking of how to handle misbehaving kids, it is first important to understand why they misbehave. Young children have difficulty handling big emotions like anger or frustration and may express it in ways that adults perceive as misbehavior. Sometimes, it becomes even more challenging for them, when they are either really hungry or extremely sleepy. Rebecca Eanes, the author of Positive Parenting, said “Every time you think ‘My child is giving me a hard time,’ also think, ‘my child is having a hard time.’”
When your child misbehaves, try to reflect also what triggered the behavior. Is it a phase your child is going through? Does he lack sleep or is he over-stimulated? Finding out why, and even putting yourself in your child’s shoes will help you position yourself better for the how.
Rules must be made clear to children even before the misbehavior happens. Let’s face it, sometimes we parents makeup rules along the way, and end up telling kids, “Do this because I say so.” But just as we adults want to know the rules first, our kids are no different. Make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to both rules and consequences of breaking each rule (if any).
Physical Restraint or Intervention
When the misbehavior could lead to something that can cause harm, parents must know when it is the right time to intervene without being overly protective. When you see your child starting to run on a slippery floor, you may want to take her hand and say, “let’s walk together carefully,” rather than shouting at the top of your lungs, “I said don’t run!”
Make your Child Choose
When children are acting stubborn, sometimes asserting our authority makes them want to have it their way even more. Remember that time when you asked everyone to hurry up, and they just did exactly the opposite? Giving them choices would make them feel that they are in control or that they are trusted. Instead of asking your child to hurry up, why not say something like, “Are you going to get dressed in 2 minutes so you can join us for the movie or would you rather be left home by yourself?”
Whether you raised your voice or put your child on time-out, it is always important to talk to your child and explain. Literally going down to their level (i.e. kneeling or sitting) and establishing eye contact are necessary when you have this conversation. It is important that children know why their attention is being called or why consequences are in order. It is also very important to assure them of your love and support. Coming up with actions or resolutions together would also be nice. You could end the conversation saying, “How do you think can I help you remember that throwing ball must only be done outside the house?”
Think Before You Act
Whatever form of discipline you wish to apply with your child, one thing all parents and caregivers must remember is to be intentional with actions. Think long and hard first before saying or doing things that you might regret and feel guilty about later on. If it helps, give yourself some space to gather your thoughts and calm your emotions. Remember that when we discipline children, it must not be out of our anger but out of love.