What is the role of adults in the lives of children? Many times we wonder about this. How are we disciplining them when they do not make the right choice? Here are some tips suggested by «Love and Logic Institute» an entity created during the early 1980s to research the area of discipline and behavior management.
Power is a major issue between children and adults. While still very young, some kids realize they don’t have much control over anything. A toddler unconsciously thinks, «I’m the smallest. They tell me what to do, and I don’t get to make decisions. I need to find a way to get some control.» Then, winning the power struggle becomes all-important, more important than making good decisions.
When we offer children a choice instead of making a demand, no power struggle ever begins. When we make a demand, we make the wise choice, leaving the child with only one way to win the power struggle, by making a fool choice. Given a range of choices, a child will have endless opportunities to choose wisely in the future.
- Always be sure to select choices that you like. Never provide one you like and one you don’t, because a child seems to have a sixth sense in selecting the one you don’t like.
- Never give a choice unless you are willing to allow the child to experience the consequence of that choice.
- Never give choices when the child is in danger
- Never give choices unless you are willing to make the choice for the child in the event he/she does not choose within ten seconds.
- The way you present the choice is important. Try to start sentences with:
- You’re welcome to _______ or _______.
- Feel free to ________ or ________.
- Would you rather ________ or ______?
- What would be best for you ______ or _______?
Children learn from their mistakes when:
- They experience the consequences of their mistakes; and
- Adults in their environment provide empathy
Bad choices have natural consequences. If David fails to wear a coat, he gets cold. If Jan misses the school bus, she stays home with an unexcused absence for the day.
As adults we are tempted to scold and reprimand, but may be surprised to learn that children actually learn best from consequences when adults empathize:
- «I’m sorry you’re cold, David»
- «What a bummer that you missed an after-school party on the day you were absent, Jan»
If adults reprimand them, children may transform sorrow over their choice into anger with the adult, and the lesson may be lost.
If adults express sorrow, children have a significant learning opportunity. David may think, «Tomorrow I’ll wear a coat.» Jan may decide, «I’ll get up fifteen minutes earlier tomorrow.»
These are a few tips to consider this week. Start by trying to implement them. Little by little you will see the transformation in your child’s behavior. Next week’s article will address more issues and will give you more tips to build a stronger discipline plan to help you guide your child.