Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles on Discipline Methods introduced in Discipline and Parenting Style. If you missed the previous articles, please read them first- Discipline Methods: Communication and Role Modeling, Discipline Methods: Merits and Demerits and Discipline Methods: Time-Out and Reverse Time-Out. This series on discipline is published every Friday, except for this one whose publication we postponed for a day to give way to Papa Sez's post on unethical campaign ads. Please check back regularly or subscribe via email or follow us at Twitter or Facebook (buttons are at the bottom right corner).
It is always easier to prevent misbehavior from happening rather than dealing with it afterwards following the adage “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
In fact there are more preventive strategies that parents can use than corrective measures for misbehaviors.
Completely preventing misbehavior is impossible to expect but the following proactive strategies will significantly reduce its occurrence.
Know the Possible Reasons for Misbehavior. If you have an idea of why and how misbehavior happens, chances are you would know what actions to take to prevent it from occurring.
Here are some possible reasons for misbehavior:
- They want to test the strength of rule enforcement.
- They do not understand the rules, or are held to expectations that are beyond their current developmental phase.
- They lack accurate information and prior experience.
- They feel ill, tired, bored, hungry or sleepy.
- They seek attention and have been previously "rewarded" with it for their misbehavior.
- They want to assert themselves and their independence.
- The get influenced by friends.
- They copy the actions of their parents.
- They either get too busy or excited and forget about the rules.
Create a Positive Home. When parents consistently laugh with their children, share lots of positive and appropriate physical interactions and talk to them in pleasant, supportive and nonjudgmental ways, positive behavior is promoted in children and inappropriate behavior is lessened. In a positive home, children are showered with attention securing their emotions such that attention-seeking behaviors are minimized.
Set Clear, Consistent and Reasonable Rules. The child should clearly understand the rule and the reason for its enforcement should sound logical to him. Moreover, when the rule is consistently impressed on the child, you become predictable, the consequence of disobedience becomes clear (not confusing) and the rule becomes rock solid for the child to challenge.
Be sure to get the child’s undivided attention when you spell out a rule so that the child hears or understands it for certain. You may need to call his name, pat his shoulder or make him face you. Tips on how to effectively communicate rules are given in Communication and Role Modeling segment of this series.
Keep the child busy, free and safe. There are many measures we can take to prevent misbehavior. For infants, toddlers and preschoolers, most strategies point to keeping the child busy and allowing for free but safe exploration.
Childproofing your home allows freedom and safety to your child who has a tremendous urge to explore. Remove breakables, valuables and dangerous objects from the child’s reach. This will free you from constant “no-no’s” and will thwart away miserable situations wherein the child is put to lots of temptations but is left frustrated.
Provide interesting play things that will catch his attention for longer periods. It could either be intellectually stimulating, skills enhancing or physically challenging but it is important for it to be entertaining as well. Successfully engaging a child in serious work or play destroys boredom and closes the avenue for misbehavior.
Be Aware and Considerate of the Child’s Current Physical, Emotional and Psychological Condition. A sick, hungry, tired, bored or sleepy child is more irritable than usual. Take actions before these conditions lead to misbehavior. Giving advanced warning and gradual transition also helps in preventing misbehavior especially in younger kids. If you need to cut their playing time, advice them 10 to 15 minutes ahead to give them chance to let go and shift to another activity.
Watch Out for Attention-Seeking Behaviors. As discussed in Merits and Demerits, attention-seeking behaviors should be ignored and not rewarded to keep the child from repeating them. Shower them with enough attention to make them feel secure. If you have to do something else that requires pulling your attention away from your child, think of engaging activities that the child can do to keep him occupied.
Be a Good Role Model. Be a good role model to your child as explained in Communications and Role Modeling segment of this Discipline Series. Strengthen their ethical standards such that they cannot be easily influenced to follow bad behaviors by friends and would know how to effectively handle peer pressure.
Be Gentle and Caring. Gentle reminders with a smile on your face work wonders in preventing misbehavior especially when dealing with a headstrong and rebellious personality. In your parenting journey, you may find situations wherein a good sense of humor will work better than a combative attitude. Children respond positively to a cheerful ‘law enforcer’ than to somebody angry or threatening. Probably because they don’t feel chained or locked like a prisoner but consider themselves independent persons who choose to cooperate.
Redirect or Distract the Child’s Attention. When a child is about to misbehave, redirecting his attention to something else prevents him from behaving inappropriately. This is another reason to be vigilant about what your child is doing.
Recognize True Misbehavior. By knowing your child and his needs and capabilities at every stage of his development, you will have a better idea of what should be a reasonable expectation. Conflict often arises when we expect them to think and behave like adults.
After all your efforts to prevent misbehavior, you may find yourself having to deal with one or two...or several instances of misbehavior. If the misbehavior is recognized as true, then the parent can decide what actions to take. Some parents may opt to spank depending on the extent of misbehavior and/or the child's age. Others will choose non-castigatory ways of dealing with misbehavior (for ideas, please read Merits and Demerits and Time-Out and Reverse Time-Out). There will be parents who may totally ignore the misbehavior.
They are the harmonious parents of young children (=democratic parents of adolescents) who are warm and loving but are more willing to tolerate a certain degree of defiance in favor of avoiding parent-child conflict, thereby maintaining harmonious family relationships. Based on a significant research finding, harmonious parents who know when to appropriately set limits and when it is not are said to be better parents than the warm, loving but controlling authoritative parents who always set firm limits. Moreover, the moderate degree of control of harmonious parents allows expression of feelings in children making them more socially competent.
To illustrate further: There are child behaviors you do not like and cannot live with such that it cannot be ignored. For most parents these are violent aggressive behavior and disrespect. On the other hand, there are many child behaviors you do not like but can live with such that certain degree of tolerance can be practiced though not to the point of becoming permissive. The challenge is for the parents to identify actual problem behavior whether there really is a problem or none at all.
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