Discipline, like parenting, begins in the cradle. It soon becomes apparent which crying is for a genuine need or just saying, I want your attention NOW. It does not hurt them to have a short cry in fact it is good exercise for their lungs. I am not saying you should leave them screaming for any length of time, just don’t drop everything the instant they squeak. Give them a few minutes, often they will settle.
When toddlers display bad behavior it is often seen as ‘cute’ or ‘funny’ and everyone laughs. Before you know it the child is repeating the behavior, thinking it is OK.
Discipline should show in your tone of voice, don’t shout at them but be firm in your tone. This will show them the difference between whether you are happy with their behavior or not. If a small child touches an ornament and you don’t want them to, it is no good smiling sweetly and talking in gentle tones, they will think they are doing something good. Say ‘no’ in a firm voice and give a simple explanation as to why you don’t want them touching it. They may think it is nice and just want a closer look, in which case you can sit with them and let them touch it under your supervision. If it is valuable put it out of their reach, remember they are learning and they won’t get it the first time.
Choose your words carefully and make sure they understand it is the behavior you don’t like, not them. For young children distraction is your best parenting weapon, give them something to do that takes the attention away from the present behavior.
As the child gets older (especially in the teen years) and seems to be displaying bad behaviors most of the time, you may need to concentrate on the bigger issues and let the small things go. After all you want to enjoy your child’s journey and don’t want to always be challenging their behavior.
There are many causes for consistent bad behavior and these may need to be investigated. It is important to ask them why they are behaving in such a way and be prepared to listen and take on board things you may not want to hear. Always ask questions gently and in a non threatening way or they will close up and not want to talk to you at all. If they won’t talk to you ask them if there is someone else they will talk to, grandparents or another responsible relative. Point out that if it is something serious that you will need to handle that the person will need to tell you. Always be honest and open with them.
Over approximately 20 years your parenting style will need to be varied for the different stages of development. Don’t be afraid to look at new ideas, they are out there and remember you don’t have to be the perfect parent. If a behavior is out of control always seek professional help through your General Practitioner.
See more information in my book “Kidz Parenting Manual” as well as other books on my site.