Every parent knows the frustration of dealing with discipline problems daily. Experts say that parents are most vulnerable to “losing their cool” when they are already feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. This can result in “parent tantrums” and creates more issues than it solves. However, there are some tried and true methods for handling the most common discipline problems while keeping your sanity intact.
Whining is one of the most common behaviors, especially in young children. This behavior is often displayed out in public and the child uses it to wear down the parent and get his way. Your child’s whining can be very irritating and make you lose your cool quite quickly. When that happens, immediately say to your child, “You’re whining, and I don’t respond to whining. I won’t change my mind,” Then totally ignore your child. The whining may get worse before it gets better but do not engage. It will stop eventually. If you are in a store and the behavior continues, leave the store and after a time out, briefly explain why you left the store and state your hopes that the next time, there will be no whining.
Interrupting is another attention-getting behavior by children that can get on a parent’s last nerve. This usually occurs when you are on the phone or otherwise engaged in conversation with someone else. If this happens when you are on the phone, put the caller on hold or tell them you will call them back. Then simply spell out the ground rules: “Unless it is an emergency, you are not to interrupt while I’m on the telephone. I will give you my full attention once I am off the phone.” If the problem persists, make sure you ignore the interrupting and do not engage the child. Eventually, the behavior will stop once your child knows she will not get your attention until after you are off the phone.
When children ignore our requests, we often resort to nagging. You asked your son to clean up his room multiple times and continue to do so every day when the room is not cleaned. The best strategy for this issue is to stop nagging and set a deadline. Tell him exactly when the chore needs to be completed by when and, most importantly, what will happen if the deadline is not met. Avoid making threats you cannot keep (“If you leave your bike outside overnight again, I will give it away.”) If the issue continues, enforce the penalty without any further discussion. Do not back down or you will undermine your authority.
If you have more than one child, chances are that sibling fights break out from time to time. These are very common but how you deal with them is most important. When your children start arguing or fighting with each other, don’t take sides. Demanding “Who started it?” will only prolong things as well. Tell them if they don’t stop, you’ll remove a privilege they both enjoy (video games, etc.). When both children suffer the same punishment, it reinforces the message that neither will profit by fighting and gives them equal incentive to resolve their argument.
According to James Windell, author of “50 Childproof Discipline Techniques for Parents,” the following discipline methods garner the most effective results:
Keep wording brief and to the point.
Never attack your child’s character with statements like “You’re such a brat!” or “How could you be so stupid?” Instead, point out the misbehavior and your feelings. “You’re not obeying the rules, and that makes me upset.”
Apologize if you cross the line. Tell your child, “I’m sorry I was so hard on you. What you did was wrong. But you didn’t deserve those hurtful words.” Don’t worry that you’ll lose your child’s respect – you’ll help her see that you respect her and that everyone makes mistakes.
Above all, seek professional help if you can’t stop yelling, name-calling, or ridiculing. Studies show such behaviors can harm kids’ self-esteem and lead to anxiety, depression, or rebellion.