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What's an appropriate punishment for your child?

Your child brings you so much joy. She makes silly faces, pronounces her words all wrong and paints her face with spaghetti sauce at least once a week. Everyone talks about how she's the cutest thing ever and you're just such a proud mom. But there are times when you wonder whose child she is. She throws herself on the floor, she doesn't listen to anything you have to say and you just feel so fed up. During those times you really think she was sent by your enemies just to torture you. You find yourself shamefully thinking, "Ugh! I wish I never had kids!" Well don't beat yourself up too badly, parenting is a constant roller coaster and I'm pretty sure most moms have had those same thoughts.

So how do you effectively discipline a child without hurting her self esteem or pride? How do you get her to comply without sending out empty threats 76 times a day? You are in luck, I'm going to show you how to effectively discipline your child without guilt or feeling like a bad person.

Before we dive in, let me explain what I mean by discipline. When most people hear the word, they think of belts and switches and chanklas. But that's not the discipline I'm talking about. According to the dictionary, discipline is "Training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character." Merrian Webster. That's the type of discipline I'm talking about. Now that we're on the same page, let's dive in.

1) Set the ground rules clearly: First, realize that your child will always break the rules if she has no clue what the rules actually are. If you have a toddler, let her know, in an age appripaite way what the rules are. So say something like "We keep our hands to ourselves" or "We hold mommy's hands when we are in the store." Repeat this over and over again until she gets it and always reward her with praise when she's following rules-that's the part many parents forget.

2) Have a short discussion when the rules are broken: Okay so as a parent myself, this is the part I can't stand. I just want to yell and get it over with, but what does yelling teach your child? Nada. After you've set clear rules, once your child breaks them, it's time to remind her about the rule she broke and allow her to follow the rule.

So let's say she runs in the house, remind her "What's our rule about running in the house? (Give her time to repeat it). Remember our rule is that we walk in the house so you don't get hurt? So go over there and show me how to walk like a big girl." Assuming she follows through, praise her and keep it moving. So now instead of yelling and teaching her nothing, you have reinforced the rule twice and ensured that she can actually follow it. This can be used when your child does something minor.

3) Ignore minor tantrums: Most parents give their child their full attention when they are throwing tantrums. This only teaches a child that the best way to get a parent's attention is by throwing a tantrum-which is the very opposite thing you want to teach her. When you are at the store and your little girl throws herself on the floor because she wants some chips, just keep moving. You can remind her that you only speak to girls who talk nicely to their mothers. And ensure that you DO NOT buy her the chips, even when she calms down. She will learn two things-she doesn't get attention for tantrums and she doesn't always get her way.

4) Use logical consequences: So there's no one size fits all when it comes to punishments. What works for Sally might be useless for Sue. But make sure the punishments fits the crime and is related to the actual crime. So if Sally hits Sue with a doll, after explaining why we don't hit, also take the precious doll away-a direct consequence for hitting. 

After taking the doll away for about 15 minutes, call Sally back, explain the rule about keeping her hands to herself and why we do it (to keep everyone safe), then have her apologize to Sue and give her the opportunity to play nicely. Got it? So in this instance, Sally is learning the rules, she is being taught reconciliation and she is given a second chance. She understands that there will be no grudge held against her. Her self esteem is left intact. If she hits again, then she can't be allowed to play with Sue or the doll for a longer period of time or even the rest of the day. 

5) Use time outs: When a child I put in a time out, first remind her of the rule she broke and why the rule is put in place. Then give her the rules of timeout. "Sally, you hit your sister. You really hurt her. We keep our hands to ourselves so we can keep everyone safe. Now you're going to sit quietly in the time out corner for 6 minutes and I'll come get you when your time out is over. Do you understand?"

Now follow through. Remind her that her timeout only begins when she is quiet and ignore her completely for all of those 6 minutes. If it's more convenient, you can include a timer so you don't forget her in timeout. This teaches her consequences and structure. 

If she refuses to go into timeout, keep taking her back to the timeout corner until she complies. Eventually she'll learn that rules are rules. If time outs don't work for your child, then try taking away something she holds dear or cancel a trip you were going to take.

Be creative, but don't be cruel about it. Remember the punishment is to fit the crime. Your goal is to teach and shape your child, not to break her will.

For another post on parenting, read How to discipline your child appropriately

If you're in the Murrieta or Temecula area and you are interested in attending a class that teaches you more about the emotional needs of your child, how to improve your relationship with your child, as well as how to implement rules, my Toddlers to Tweens parenting class might just be for you. Call 951-905-3181 for a free consultation call to find out more about the parenting class and see if the class is right for you.

How to build a better relationship with your child

It is every parent's dream to nurture their children into responsible, happy, successful adults. But the problem is so many parents have no clue how to achieve that dream. Well, let me be honest with you-being a parent is incredibly difficult, but if you are able to create a solid relationship with your kids, your life will be significantly easier.

The job of nurturing your kids begins when they are born. Here are some quick tips on how to continue to build on your relationship with your kids. 

1) Spend time with your baby: The job of bonding with your child should begin when your kids are newborns. Spend time holding your child, lay him on your chest, talk to him, sing with him and let him feel, hear and see the love you emit-and this also goes for dads as well. Doing this gives your child a comfortable sense of security which he will need in order to stand tall as he grows older. Even if you don't have a lot of free time, make sure you're able to carve out alone time with your baby each day. Quality time weighs more than quantity of time.

2) Utilize drive time properly: As your child gets older, he'll be spending a lot more time in the car, and chances are you'll be his chauffeur. Instead of letting him drown you out with his phone or his music, or you drowning him out with your phone calls, use that time to go over his mood, what he learned in school, learn about who he's hanging out with, what's going wrong in school and so much more information. It's no longer enough to just ask "How was school?" You have to dig deeper. Ask him who he sat with at lunch, what games he played, who his favorite teacher is, who his least favorite teacher is as well as the highs and lows of his day.

This sends the message that you're listening, you care, and you're a safe person for him to talk to. Close parent-child relationships are built over the course of time.

3) Make punishments a teachable moment: Now all isn't peaches and rainbows in the world of parenting. There are going to be times when your child steps outside of the boundaries you've created and you have to give him a consequence. It's just the way the world works. First make sure you're not punishing your child while you're very upset-you'll end up saying and doing things you regret. 

After calming down, think through a punishment that fits the situation, then calmly explain what your child did wrong, why it was wrong and give him some time to explain his thought process. Why? Because it helps him learn how to process his emotions and think about consequences (a skill every good human needs to know). When the punishment is over, mend fences with him and let him know that you love him no matter what. Don't ever let your child go to bed thinking he's bad or that your relationship is broken in some way.

 4) Be aware of your child's feelings: Be vigilant. When your child is throwing a fit (yes, even those teenagers), rather than screaming at him, ask him what's wrong. You see kids aren't fully developed and they sometimes don't know how to process things. It's your job to teach him about emotions and how to properly handle them. Don't get mad at your child because he's mad (that's madness-Pun Intended). Rather, help him get to the root cause of his anger and show him that it's okay to not always be happy.

 This shows your child what empathy looks like and it gives him a feeling that he's secure around you. If your child doesn't feel emotionally secure in your home, he'll find security somewhere else-and you won't like it.

 5) Encourage your child to have an opinion: Don't raise a robot. Include your child in some of the decisions in the home. This will teach him advanced reasoning skills which he needs to be a successful and productive adult. After all, no parent wants to raise a child who just follows others blindly.

 6) Focus on the positives: Your job as a parent is to be the coach, guide and confidante. If you're able to play these three roles well, you'll be happy with yourself. But too often, parents focus on the weaknesses and wrong doings of their kids. That isn't to say that you should never correct your child, but if you're overly critical, your kids will be hurt, disgruntled and overly hardened.

Think about the words you say to your children in any given day. Are the majority commands and criticisms or are they ego building and kind? It takes 3 positive words to drown out 1 negative word from a child's mind, so make sure you're pouring in much more positive than negative.

A parent is a child's first mirror.

 And if you’d like to learn more about Why do your kids behave the way they do? check out the highlighted blog post.

If these tips were helpful to you at all and you want to learn more practical parenting skills to help you improve your relationship with your child, give me a call at 951-905-3181. My 8-week Toddlers to Tweens parenting support group (held in Murrieta) teaches parents ways to improve their relationship with their kids, how to properly manage misbehavior and how to encourage good behavior. You can also email me here to find out if the parenting class is a great fit for you.

How to discipline your child appropriately

During the summer time, there is a growing strain on parents. The kids are home from school and sometimes, your patience wears thin. You love your kids, but sometimes, they get on your last nerves. Now at the back of your mind you know that they're just kids and your expectations for them aren't too lofty. You don't expect them to be perfect little angels all the time, but sometimes you feel like they are NEVER perfect little angels. Over the next few weeks I'll be giving you tips on how to manage your kids appropriately so that both you and them can co-exist in a happy and healthy way. Now doesn't that sound fun? Here are some simple tips to get you started:

1) Set clear rules: Often times when I talk to parents, I notice that their rules for their kids are either non existent or very unclear. Parents spend a lot of time telling kids what not to do and little to no time telling them what to actually do. So for example, if your kids have a habit of running in the house, rather than yelling 100 times "Don't Run!!" Tell them exactly what you want them to do in a simple, clear, calm sentence. Be age appropriate. So if your child is 3, you won't give him 10 rules-he can't remember all that. Say something like "Please [yes say please] walk carefully in the house." Now your child knows the rules. You can even have him repeat them after you.

A quick assignment for you. Write out 5 simple rules your kids can follow, have a discussion with your kids about the rules, make sure they actually understand them, then post them in a public place such as your kitchen or living room. This sets a clear expectation for your kids.

Now you will have to refer to the rules several times until your kids get used to them, it's just a part of a parent's life. Don't be frustrated. I'm sure you've broken a few rules in your day. 

2) Have a clear discussion with your child when the rules have been broken: After setting the rules, explaining them to your child and posting them in a public place, understand that your child will still break the rules. Rather than losing it, be prepared. Now this is to be used when your child breaks a minor rule e.g. he runs in the house, spills a glass of water, breaks a toy-something minor. 

Call the child, remind him about the rule ("We walk calmly in the house"). Then tell him the reason for the rule ("We walk calmly so that we don't break something or hurt ourselves"). Third, give him an opportunity to practice the rule ("Now please go back and walk like a big boy"). And just like that you've helped your child practice advanced reasoning. If all you did was yell, your child would just learn that you're a great yeller. But if you follow those 3 easy steps, he'll get to remember the rules, the reasons for the rules and have the opportunity to practice. See the difference?

3) Ignore your child sometimes: Sometimes ignoring your child is all the discipline he needs. When your child exhibits very minor behavior, sometimes all you have to do is ignore him. What that teaches him is that you will only reward him with your attention when he is following your rules. A great example of this is whining. When you're at the store and your child is nagging you about buying him some candy, simply ignore. Note that sometimes his voice will escalate and he might throw himself on the floor-don't be embarrassed. Stand your ground, don't make eye contact and keep moving. When you do this multiple times he will learn that he cannot always get his way.

But if you buy him the candy he'll learn that all he has to do is scream and throw himself on the floor to get himself some candy-not the message you want to send.

4) Give a logical consequence: And other times you actually have to punish your child. But make sure it's logical. Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill. Remember to use age appropriate punishments. So for example, if your child breaks a toy on purpose, the punishment could be taking away another treasured toy, only after explaining why he is being punished this way. Always give your child an opportunity to redeem himself after the punishment is over. This is very essential as you want your child to get as much practice as he can in actually following the rules. Too many parents just go about punishing without actually teaching their children anything. Your role isn't to be the executioner-it's to be the coach, confidante and guide-don't forget that.

So go ahead and try the 4 steps above and comment below to let me know how it goes for you. If you happen to be in the Murrieta area and you are interested in learning more skills to improve your bond with your child and improve parenting skills, give me a call at 951-905-3181 or email me here. 

In my 8-week Toddlers to Tweens parenting skills class in Murrieta, I equip parents with kids ages 2 to 10 on skills that'll help them parent with confidence. It's never too late to learn effective parenting skills.