Parenting Strategies That Want To Go and What To Do As an alternative
The way parents view and understand child development and parenting issues has made a quantum leap in the past decades or so. Let’s remember that not so long ago physical violence wasn’t a dirty secret, but a regular and encouraging way of disciplining kids. Nonetheless, some unhelpful parenting strategies lingered on. Here are seven parenting techniques that must go, and how can you replace them with more reasonable alternatives.
Using punishments as a way to discipline.
I pray to my dear Lord, sweet Jesus that physical punishments are no longer used by any parents. I know that I am probably preaching to the converted now. The parenting community on this platform is educated and woke enough not to use such primitive ways. However, physical punishments are not the only kind available. The vast majority of parents resort to more demure punishments such as grounding, taking away privileges, chores, and others. Even more insidious, the most frightening way to punish a kid is to threaten them with taking away your love. To your kids, you are their world, and the perspective that you might not love them anymore is scary.What is a parent supposed to do, let their kids do whatever they please with no consequences?
No, parents are supposed to do just that, use consequences.
Perhaps the most unfortunate confusion in the parenting world is that between consequences and punishment. In everyday life, they seem almost synonymous. However, they are not. A punishment is an action used with the intent of causing discomfort and harm to another person, in this context, your kids. A consequence is a natural result of behavior carried by your kids. Both punishments and consequences can be unpleasant. The difference relies on the source of the hurt. For example, if your kid puts their hand on something hot, the natural consequence would be that they will get burned. Putting your kid’s hand on something hot to teach them a lesson for bad behavior would be a punishment. Sounds awful? That’s because it is. I know this is an extreme example, but I wanted you to understand the different perspectives that punishment and consequences have on discipline.
A second important difference between the two is that punishments teach kids about what they shouldn’t do. But what are they supposed to do instead? A consequence is meant to do exactly that: teach your kid to take responsibility, understand the lesson and learn how to do better next time.
Here is an example. If your kid left his bike outside overnight and it got stolen, a punishment would be to scream and preach about how ungrateful he is and ground him for a week. A consequence would be that he no longer has a bike. You can clearly explain to him how his negligence led to this consequence. Don’t sweep in and hurry to buy him another bike. You can use this situation to teach a lesson about responsibility. If he wants another bike he has to contribute a portion of the money earned by doing small, age-appropriate chores, taking a part-time job, or find what would work for your family. You can see how this situation would teach him to take care of and appreciate his nice things in the future more than any lecture or punishment ever could.
Using timeout to learn about appropriate ways to cope with big feelings.
Talk about wishful thinking. If you have ever been put in timeout, you know that you didn’t use that time to think about what you did wrong. You were thinking about how your family wronged you and treats you poorly. If your kid had the cognitive abilities to stop and think about his feelings and behaviors, he wouldn’t need to be in timeout in the first place. And I do not say your kid does not have the mental capacity. I say that adults often forget that kids’ cognitive abilities and emotional self-control aren’t fully formed yet.
Humans are fully developed from a cognitive and emotional standpoint around the age of 26 when their frontal lobe finishes developing. The frontal lobe is responsible among others for emotional regulation, impulse control, planning and carrying out a plan, attention, etc.Time out doesn’t work because you are asking a kid to do the mature emotional processing you find yourself difficult to do.If you use a timeout with the intent of letting everyone calm down before you resume a conversation, stop calling it this way. That is not a timeout.What to do instead of a timeout? Encourage healthy ways of coping with feelings like breathing exercises, painting, reading, blowing bubbles, going for a walk, etc. After everyone calmed down, discuss what happened, draw the lessons, and carry out the natural consequence of their behavior.
Counting to three.
In this category, I also include the “Don’t make me repeat myself!” “Don’t make me come there!” or other threats.
Essentially, what you are saying is “Don’t make me unleash my fury upon you!”. Maybe you are not aware of it. Maybe your parents used it and as you become a parent you started using it too. All I say is it has to go. It doesn’t even work as a way of disciplining a kid. Maybe it worked the first, second, or the tenth time you used it. However, your kid figured out pretty easily that it’s a bluff and he calls you on it. If he learned that you mean it, and when you start counting to there it’s bad, imagine how terrified he must feel. No one learns when is afraid.
What to do instead? Instead of screaming from the other room at your kid to obey, get close to him, get at his level, or gently put your hand on his arm to prompt eye contact. Calmly repeat what you just said. Gage the situation. Why your kid didn’t listen to you in the first place? It’s a power struggle, and he wants to affirm his independence? He doesn’t want to stop what he was doing to listen to you?
Encourage your kid, give him a small enjoyable task to do (“You can carry mommy’s keys to the car!”), or give him a choice between two things you are ok with instead (“Do you want to put your shoes on alone or do you want mommy to help you?”).
Screaming or raising your voice.
Kids often test the limits, bringing their parents to the brink of total raging furry. However, please resist the temptation to scream or raise your voice. As kids are requested, parents must also control their own emotions. Just because you are the adult and therefore have the power in this interaction, doesn’t mean you get to throw an adult-sized tantrum to get your way. Be a good example. Trust me, nothing is more frightening to a kid than a raging parent. Fear is not a good teacher, it is paralyzing. If you feel like your kid isn’t listening and you are about to lose it, take a break. Go drink some water, clear your mind. Later when you are calmer you can resume the conversation and find a solution. The best parenting decisions are not taken in the heat of the moment.
If you get mad and raise your voice, apologize to your kid. When you don’t constantly raise your voice, in a situation when you need to do it because your kid is in danger or there is some other kind of urgent situation, your kid is 1000 times more likely to respond immediately to you.
Bribing good behavior
Bribing is not extremely toxic per se. It becomes not useful when you use it too often. If you let your kid play on his iPad sometimes to keep him quiet for a while because you just need some rest, don’t feel so guilty.
The problem with bribing is that it steadily increases in the size of the bribe. You start with treats, then toys, then screen time, and you keep escalating. The whole idea behind bribing is that you offer something so attractive to your kid that he is immediately motivated to comply with your request.
The most damaging part of constantly using bribes to make your kid listen is that you are not supporting their internal motivation. Your kid is going to learn fast that for him to do something, there needs to be some sort of instant reward. That is not going to work long-term. Life is full of tedious, boring, hard things to do, that are not followed by an instant reward. In fact, all crucial things in life are hard to do. So, use this technique wisely.
Instead of bribing encourage your kid to cooperate. Use affirmations, not questions (“In five minutes it’s time to go home”, not “Do you want to go home?). If you know your kid has a hard time interrupting an activity he enjoys, give him a head’s up before his time is up. You will be surprised how much that is going to help him. Even if your kid gets upset, that’s ok. Be open to soothe him and let him know you are there if he needs a hug, but stand your ground.
“Because I said so!”
Join your kids in their world when they are little so you’ll be welcome in their world when they get big. — L. R. Knost
“ Because I said so!” isn’t a complete argument, thus kids aren’t willing to oblige when you’re using it. I know that you are sick and tired of constantly repeating the same things. I get it. Being a parent, teacher, being the lady at the school cafeteria isn’t easy. However, all people who spend time around kids need a hefty dose of patience. Patience to take the time and explain for the 1000th time the same thing.
Think about how you would react if your boss said to you that you have to work next Saturday and instead of an explanation he said “Because I said so, I am your boss so just do what I said!”
Using this non-argument blocks any form of communication and guarantees a power struggle. The automated response from anyone in this situation will be: I do what I want! You won’t tell me what to do. What to do instead? Take a deep breath, say a little prayer and quickly assess the situation. Why isn’t your kid isn’t willing to listen to you? Do you need to explain to him again why you need him to do a certain thing? Is it a power struggle? Does he feel overwhelmed by your request or just doesn’t want to do it?
You cannot make your kids listen, but you can encourage their collaboration. First, validate their feelings (“Does this feel impossible? I think you are overwhelmed which makes it feel impossible.”) Then encourage your kid (“Let’s take a moment to breathe and regroup. I trust that you can do it.”)
Ignoring or the silent treatment
Ignoring is never the answer. I know that you were told to ignore your kid when he throws a tantrum because he wants a toy at the store or when he is intentionally misbehaving to attract your attention.
This whole idea about ignoring unwanted behavior stems from pavlovian conditioning. A behavior that is rewarded will increase its frequency, while behavior that is not rewarded will lessen in frequency. Is it that simple? No. It might work if you want to teach your dog a new trick, but it doesn’t really work with kids. Why? Because it doesn’t teach kids the appropriate behavior.
Moreover, your kid doesn’t have the emotional maturity to process their emotions, draw a lesson, and come up with a better solution.
If your kid has thrown a tantrum at the store because you didn’t buy him what he wanted and you simply ignored the bad behavior, next time he wants something at the store, he will throw another tantrum because he doesn’t know what to do instead.
Next time the whole Target is hearing your kid’s complaints, get at his level, calmly explain to him that you won’t be buying what he wants. Offer a compensation. He can hold it for a while or, my personal favorite, he can take a picture of it. All the pictures are saved in a special folder on the phone. When it’s time to chose a Christmas or birthday gift he can go through the pictures and choose something. I heard this approach from a mommy some time ago and I thought it was brilliant. If your kid is older, you can try another approach. Make a list of all you need ahead of time. Also, make your kid a part of creating the shopping list. At the store, the rule is we stick to the list. If it’s not on the list we don’t buy it.
If your kid starts to cry, it’s ok. There is no reason for you to feel embarrassed. Go back to your car if you need some privacy. Be willing to comfort him. Tell your kid that you are there if he needs a hug, but don’t give in to his demands. There is a big difference between holding your ground and simply ignoring bad behavior.
The most toxic form of ignoring is the silent treatment. Please never ever use this form of punishment. It is so hurtful and emotionally damaging that I consider it a form of abuse. In fact, the silent treatment is a favorite tool in abusive people’s terror kit. You might not be an abusive person, but if one of your parents did use it on you, and you learned as a child how efficient it is, you will be more inclined to use it yourself. The silent treatment doesn’t teach your kid appropriate behaviors, but that isn’t even the point. The point of using this strategy is to make your kid so afraid of ever receiving this treatment that he will be willing to totally capitulate in favor of your demands and wishes. This is emotional terrorism. Please don’t use it.
The perfect parent, who never made a single mistake and all his parenting decisions are spot-on does not exist. So don’t be too harsh with yourself. You are learning along the way and growing as a parent. All one can do is acknowledge the wrongdoings and do better next time.
I hope you found this article helpful and until next time,
Thrive and develop!
This post was previously published on medium.com.
You Might Also Like These From The Good Men Project
Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels