by Christine Louise Hohlbaum
Diary of a Mother
Iím no child expert, but I have been a mother long enough to know what works and what doesnít. Sometimes, as parents, we inflict more harm than good simply because we feel angry, tired, or frustrated. Thinking about effective disciplining practices BEFORE they are needed can help save you and your children a lot of heart ache later.
How do we battle whining or undesirable attention-grabbing behavior? Lengthy car trips, long waits in the check-out lane, or doctorsí office waiting rooms Ė wherever boredom sets in, watch out! My children require a great deal of input in a day. Usually, we travel with one or two board books or coloring books to pass the time at doctorís offices. Singing songs or reading a story can help make car long trips seem shorter. Frequent rest stops to stretch little and big legs alike help reduce irritability.
We recently took a two-week vacation to the beach. After thirteen days of fun, my four-year-old was grappling with feelings of loss and sadness that our vacation was nearing an end. When she told me that she didnít like this day, I suggested that we change the day to a new one. We ran around our beach chairs three times, tumbling in the sand with peals of laughter. It helped lighten her mood and mine too!
Sibling rivalry is another issue that requires effective discipline. Oftentimes, children need to gain distance from their negative feelings. When my two and four-year-old were at odds one day, I asked them for their help. Suddenly, I had two quarrelling children that I didnít know what to do with. I asked them if they could help me toss them out the window. We took two imaginary kids, hoisted them out the ground-level window, and dusted our hands of them. It worked! They immediately began playing nicely together.
Acknowledging that children have control of their own feelings and actions can be very powerful. Our time-out chair is placed away from any toys or books in the living room. The children know that if they misbehave after repeated warnings, theyíre destined for the white chair. Often it is enough to simply ask them if they want to sit on the time-out chair or stop their behavior. They are made aware of their power to influence the situation.
A heightened form of discipline is sending the kids to their rooms. I never leave them in their rooms for more than a few minutes. Asking them why they were punished helps clarify the situation for everyone. Oftentimes my four-year-old is so wrapped up in her feelings that she isnít aware of what she is doing. Explaining why she was punished gives her an added understanding of what went wrong and how to avoid such behavior in the future.
Listening to her response is just as crucial. As parents, we often forget that children need to be heard, no matter how trivial it may seem. Parental explanation and listening are key factors in building a mutually respectful relationship. Your child wonít listen if you donít.
Discipline means teaching or guiding. We all need a little guidance every day. Being creative and loving about it can help you have the relationship you want with your child, and youíll have fun doing it, too!
Christine Louise Hohlbaum, American author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, has been writing since she was eleven. She holds a B.A. from Smith College and an M.A. from the Universitiy of Constance, Germany. She currently resides near Munich with her husband and two children. Visit her web
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