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.

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.