How to Discipline Kids without Smacking
Knowing the right way to discipline kids can be a challenge. It would be extremely rare for me to smack my kids these days, but I must confess it wasn’t always this way. I was only 19 when I had my first child, Ash. I still felt like a child myself! I remember one time when Ash was misbehaving in the car as a toddler. I said if she didn’t stop she would get a smack. She continued misbehaving, so I said she was going to get two smacks. This went on until I had tallied up 10 smacks! So I gave her 10 smacks in a row. Later, I saw her shouting at her doll, and giving it 10 smacks! This was a turning point for me. I felt so ashamed when I realised what I had been ‘teaching’ my child. I realised I was reacting to her in frustration rather than parenting proactively. I was in tears, and I vowed that I would learn how to parent more positively.
Immerse Yourself in Parenting Education
I read every parenting book I could find, went to parenting courses, and surrounded myself with mums I aspired to become like. I was so passionate about changing and learning more effective ways to discipline my kids. It became an obsession. I put all of my time and energy in to it, and implemented everything I learned. Just because you become a parent, it doesn’t mean you magically know what to do. Also, many people grow up in dysfunctional families where positive parenting wasn’t modelled. It’s hard to be a good parent if you haven’t been shown how. I believe all parents would benefit from educating themselves on parenting and highly recommend it.
Prevention is Key
Thankfully I’ve discovered more effective parenting techniques in the past decade. I’ve learned that prevention is key. If my kids are engaged in an activity, they will focus on that activity rather than on misbehaving. It comes down to knowing your child. Depending on the child, pencils and paper may do the trick, or a library book about a topic they love, or fruit for a toddler to keep them quiet while watching an older sibling’s assembly.
Meet Emotional Needs
Sometimes a child may be misbehaving because of unmet emotional needs. One of my kids was going through a phase where they were angry all the time. Other parents suggested medication! I asked a doctor and a psychologist for advice. I had a gut feeling it was because my child wasn’t spending enough time with their dad. The doctor suggested we play more games with him. Now his dad plays his favourite game with him daily, and he is much happier.
Don't Get Emotionally Involved
I’ve learned not to get emotionally involved if my child is having a meltdown. I used to end up yelling. After years of practice, my automatic response is to ask myself why they are behaving this way. It is usually because they are tired or hungry! Once I know the cause I can offer a solution. A tired child needs an early night. A 'hangry' child needs to be fed. A child having an emotional breakdown may just need a big, reassuring hug. When a child misbehaves, e.g. hitting their sibling with a toy sword, rather than getting angry and reactively smacking, I send them to time out in their room for a few minutes. If a child is in a rage I leave them until they are calm. It’s not about punishment, it’s about calming down so you can deal with the problem. I use logical consequences, for example taking the sword away for a day.
Use Your Imagination
This will sound ridiculous but we have a character in our house called ‘Clancy’, similar to ‘The Claw’, but with an American mafia accent! It’s just a hand in the shape of a ‘C’. If the kids don’t do what they’re asked at bedtime, ‘Clancy’ will give them the ‘clamps’ and squeeze them just above their knee, which makes them laugh hysterically! If we ask our toddler to get in his bed, he most likely won’t listen. If ‘Clancy’ tells our toddler to get in to bed, he runs to his bed giggling! Amazingly, using 'Clancy' is far more effective for discipline than threatening with a smack! By knowing our kids well, we’ve managed to find something that works for us! Now ‘Clancy’ is the main disciplinarian in our house! Smacking is considered a last resort and is very rarely used, if ever.
Look after Yourself
Remember to look after yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. Happy parents make happy kids. Immerse yourself in parenting wisdom. Start off with one parenting tool per month, whether it be a parenting book, class, audiobook, DVD, etc. This knowledge is your storehouse that you can draw from in your time of need! Be emotionally present so you can parent intuitively with your heart and do what is best when it comes to discipline, rather than reacting negatively to each situation.
Setting up Generations
It takes a lot of energy to discipline your kids positively, but it is so worth it! This is an investment that will continue on for generations! By modelling positive parenting to your child, you are teaching them how to be a positive parent to their child, and so on. Remember, you are setting up generations! If you'd like to join the discussion further I have started a Facebook group for mums, called Setting Up Generations. Do you have any positive parenting tips for disciplining kids?