By Ayesha AlJanahi (@_AyeshaAljanahi)
Never regret anything that has happened in your life, it cannot be changed, undone or forgotten so take it as a lesson learned and move on.
As a parent of a young child, you know how difficult it is to deal with challenging behavior and perhaps you have often said “my son screams in public when he does not get his way”, “my daughter whines and cries at mealtimes”, or “my two children are always fighting”. So what are the effective disciplining strategies that we can use with our children that will help them achieve self-control and reduce challenging behavior?
Sometimes our first reaction to their wrongdoing is a harsh “NO”. Other times, we lose our temper and snap back at them pointing and waving our finger and warning them, or putting them in timeout. Surprisingly, however, researchers found that these harsh disciplining techniques may succeed in the short term, with a sudden halt of their actions, but in the long term, they fail to really help children grow or react any differently in the future. Not all children are the same. Some may be more temperamentally difficult than others, but often, our reactions as parents can encourage their challenging behavior.
When my 18-months son accidentally stuck a small piece of paper in his nose, my instant reaction could have been to scold him and tell him how wrong his actions were. But how effective would harsh discipline be at that critical moment? Anger depicts fear and stops the bad behavior instantly for a short time, but in the long run, it will not teach my son about taking care of his body or that nostrils are for smelling and not for storing paper.
During the first 6 years of life, your child is learning to develop self-control. This is the ability to manage his or her actions, feelings, and relationships with others including friends and siblings. These early years are critical to their development and whatever they experience in their early years will have an effect on their brain’s architecture and their future successes in life.
So here are 3 strategies you can use to strengthen your child’s self-control skills and help you deal with challenging behavior.
First, use words to help your child understand his feelings. When your child is screaming because you did not buy him the toy he wanted at the shop, say “you feel mad because we did not buy the toy”. If he feels his feelings are acknowledged, he will feel respected and will start to calm down.
Second, involve your children in the process and give simple choices. For example, like many mothers, I struggled during mealtime. My son gave me such a hard time. I wanted to resolve the problem so badly but my added negative attention only magnified the problem more and more. I gave him a time-out for not eating, yelled, and got angry. But what did he learn? To eat quietly without whining? To follow my instructions? Well, he learnt neither. I later realized that refusing to eat was common among all children at this stage because they are starting to learn the concept of control.
So instead of asking him to compel to my instructions, I started to change meal-battle-time into meal-fun-time with mommy. He helped me set the table and I let him choose his favorite plate and cup. Then he helped me prepare the food, choosing between carrots and cucumbers. This process of involvement and simple choices had a magical effect on mealtime battles. Involving children in decision-making is important to build their self-esteem. Simple choices like what to wear, what to play with or which story to read has such a wonderful effect on their self-confidence that they will end up naturally wanting to cooperate.
Third, stay calm when your child is upset. If you keep your cool, even when your child drops the vase on the floor or hits his sister, he will feel safe and start to learn by example. But if you use violence or severe punishment to solve problems, then your child will reciprocate and do the same to his friends or family. Teach children that violence is not OK and the best way to do that is by not doing it to them. Moreover, if you can maintain self-control under pressure and be respectable to others who upset you then he will learn to do the same.
Remember, as a parent, you have the most important and most complex job in the world. Children are not born with “how-to” manuals and we all need support and guidance. So go ahead and spoil your children, not with toys and gifts, but with tender love and care. Give them the gift of your time and attention. By that, you will be applying the most effective disciplining strategy.
Written in collaboration with Arabian Child organization
Visit www.arabianchild.org for more information about early childhood education in the United Arab Emirates.
Sail eMagazine’s 18th Issue – September 2011
Here We Start – Art of Living 101 – Community Talk – Food for Thought
Just Another Undergrad – Society of Tomorrow – The First Years Last Forever
The Mind’s Eye – To the Point – Too Blunt for Words – Words, Observations, and Ramblings
A loving mother of a son who has changed her life and put it into perspective. Ayesha is a senior social media specialist, a Global Leader for young children in the Arab region, and a writer in few Arabic publications. Her column is written in collaboration with the Arabian Child organization, and offers inspiration and an in-depth exploration of early childhood development.