“It’s gotten to a point that I don’t want to take him out anywhere”, says Elaine, an events planner and mother of one.
“My son can be extremely difficult at times, and sometimes, I don’t get why. Could it be natural for children to be this hard-headed at a young age?” Elaine wonders.
According to Dr Laura Markham, parenting expert and clinical psychologist, strong-willed kids want to learn things for themselves rather than accepting what others accept, so they test the limits over and over. “They want desperately to be ‘in- charge’ of themselves, and will sometimes put their desire to be right above everything else. When their heart is set on something, their brains seem to have a hard time switching gears.” And that’s how and when the tantrums, stubbornness and all things ugly come into place.
Anita, another parent we spoke to who shares the same sentiments as Elaine is often confused as to why her daughter can be so stubborn at times. “Maybe because she is our only child, so she often gets all the attention from other family members, and hence can’t take no for an answer.” Anita recalls a time when her five-year-old made a big fuss in the departmental store just because she was denied another doll.
So our question back to these parents is how then do they manage their child’s worst? The answer was simple, “I either punish my child or use the reward system to get him or her to do as I say.”
Punishments & Incentives
It can be a constant battle trying to come to an ‘agreement’ with your child. I remember how my cousin always has to ‘bribe’ her sons to listen to her and keep up with her instructions. However, learning how to effectively discipline your child is an important skill that all parents need to learn. It involves teaching your child right from wrong and how to respect the rights of others. The goal is to help develop a child who feels secure and loved and who is self-confident, self-disciplined, and in self-control.
With that said, here are some tips on how you can use punishments and incentives correctly.
- Punishments work best if they’re immediate and consistent.
- Threatening to punish is not a good idea – it weakens the message, and teaches kids they can get away with things a few times (or maybe more than a few) before anyone takes them seriously.
- Do not over-reward, doing so will enable your kids to take it for granted.
- Do not be quick to reward. If you want your child to fully learn their lesson, they got to earn it.
- Rewards also work a little better if they’re unexpected – that means you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) give a reward every single time. If a reward is already expected, it’s less powerful.
Aren’t there alternatives on how parents can get through to their kids besides punishments and rewards? Well there is, as the famous Dr. Phil tells us. Here’s his strategy on how to effectively discipline the kiddos by improving on your parenting skills.
- Commit Yourself.
It’s crucial that your child knows that you’re going to do what you say you will. If you explain what a punishment will be, and then don’t act on it, you will have less credibility the next time. Make a commitment to your child’s discipline, and be consistent in your behaviour toward them.
- Be Realistic in Your Expectations of Your Child.
Don’t ask your child to do anything he/she cannot do. Make sure that what you are asking of your child is behaviour within his or her reach – if it’s not, your child will get frustrated and be less likely to listen to you in the future.
- Define Your Child’s Currency.
Find out what your child values – it could be a toy, a particular activity, or even a privilege like getting to stay awake to a particular hour. Dr Phil explains: “If you control the currency, you control the behaviour that currency depends on.” Once you understand what your child values, you can withdraw positive things (taking away the toy) or introduce negative things (making them take a time-out) as a form of discipline.
- Give Your Children Predictable Consequences.
It’s important for your child to understand that the same result will come from the same behaviour. Make your child feel like he/she has control over their life: If your child behaves in “Way A,” they need to be sure that they will always get “Consequence B.” If he/she can count on the rules staying the same, they’re more likely to abide by them.
- Use Child-Level Logic.
Explain your values in terms your child can understand. Take the time to explain the reasons behind why you are asking him/her to behave in certain ways – if your child understands the kinds of behaviour you’d like them to avoid, they’re more likely to apply that reasoning to different situations, instead of learning to stop one behaviour at a time.
At the end of the day, children aren’t born knowing how and why to behave well. They need to learn this skill, just like they learn to write or ride a bike. So don’t give up when your child doesn’t seem to show any improvement. Remember, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
What are your tips for dealing with bad behaviour? Leave us a comment down below.