Older Children & Tools for Discipline
Be a Role Model:
* As parents, we must demonstrate or model what we want our children to do, especially when they do not have language to communicate with us initially.
* They are much more likely to do what you do, not what you say.
Provide Alternatives for Destructive Behaviors:
* All children, but especially children from hard places, may have destructive behaviors such as hitting, pinching, biting, kicking, etc.
* It can be very helpful to redirect your child to an appropriate outlet for their anger.
o Giving them a designated object that they can take their anger out on so they don’t take it out on themselves or others like hitting a pillow, squeezing something, etc.
o You can say, “It is okay for you to be angry. How you are expressing it is not okay. Here is an okay way to express your anger.”
Ensure that Restitution Occurs:
* If a child steals something, he should return it with an apology.
* If he breaks something that is not his on purpose, he should pay for it either through services or monetarily.
* By apologizing and returning an item or replacing the item, a child is given the chance to do the right thing and this again creates opportunity for motor memory like the re-dos.
* When something is not going to danger your child/others, letting what would happen, happen without interference can teach the child natural consequences for their behavior.
o Ex: If a child did not do his homework, let him get a zero.
o Ex: If a child broke his toy on purpose, let it be broken.
Loss of Privileges & Plan to Earn Them Back:
* There are times, especially with older kids, where loss in privileges is most appropriate consequence for a behavior but…
o It is very important to teach a child how they can earn their privilege back when they have lost it.
o It is important to give them a goal to work towards.
* It is not good to take away a child’s privilege for too long (even with older children)—you don’t want them to lose sight of their goal or the discipline technique may not be as effective as desired.
* Providing praise or rewards when they are doing well to encourage them.
* Don’t just praise the positive behaviors, but even the steps toward them – look for little victories.
* Giving lots of praise and affirmation will encourage them to keep behaving in positive ways.
Provide incentives and motivation
Clearly communicate the expectations, rules, and consequences
* Another suggestion is to set family standards
* For example, “we respect one another” could be a “standard” of the family, which can encompass so many behavioral issues.
Use one-liners: recommended by Levy and Orlans in their book, Healing Parents.
* One-liners can be an excellent way in avoid negative interactions with your child. They keep you from being “hooked” into arguments and allow you to stay calm.
* One-liners are brief phrases and expressions that leave your child without a means to continue arguing and engaging negatively.
* One-liners should always be expressed with empathy or humor. They will not work if expressed with anger, sarcasm, or criticism.
* They call for no reply, but encourage your child to think.
* Examples could be…
* “I’m sorry that you feel that way.”
* “Thank you for sharing.”
* “That’s an interesting thought.”
* Or “Bad choice, buddy.”
Try to diffuse the situation
* One way to do this is through the use of humor or by being playful and fun
Give the child a little space when necessary while still remaining close by
* The child may need a break from you, but he does not need to feel that you’re rejecting him
* You can say something like, “I’m here when you’re ready to talk” – this communicates the message that this is your decision to step away from me but I’m not going anywhere
Try to encourage your child to do something instead of telling him what to do
* For example, you could say, “hey, I think it is supposed to get dark in a couple hours if you want to go ahead and take care of that yard work” instead of saying “you need to drop what you’re doing and go mow the grass.” You could also say something like “where do you want to do your homework” instead of “go do your homework.”
Invite the child into the process of establishing rules and consequences
* Allow your child to partner with you in coming up with discipline tactics that he feels is reasonable for certain behaviors.
* This gets “buy in” from the child.
Follow through on consequences
* Providing consequences can also apply to new situations that arise. If you say “You need to clean up your space. If you don’t, you can’t watch TV.” You are giving the child the opportunity to practice making a good decision. If he fails to choose what you think is best, he can still learn over time that he is responsible for the decisions he makes as well as their consequences. Ultimatums don’t work with many of our children, it simply causes them to dig in their heels.
Permit “soft failures”
* For example, if your child forgets his gear for football practice after you’ve reminded him to grab it multiple times in the past and this has become an issue, don’t give in and run it up to the school for him. Allow him to sit out of practice for the day. In other words, allow for “soft failures” – in a controlled environment where the child isn’t going to be harmed. The child will be much more likely to experience true learning and remember not to make the same mistake again after experiencing the natural consequences of his actions. Help the child learn from his mistakes. This lesson will likely go much further and serve the child better in the long run.