The debate as to the best way to raise children has been around as long as we have. Some parents are strict disciplinarians while others seem completely oblivious to anything that their children may say or do. So what’s the best way to correct your child when his/her behavior is unacceptable?
The first thing to remember is that a parent’s words can and will have a lasting effect on the child. What may seem nothing more than a simple reprimand to you may have a long lasting effect on your child. Can you remember something that your mom or dad said to you when you were young that still bothers you to this day? Just about everyone can and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your parents were “bad” parents! It does mean that there is a right way and a wrong way to discipline a child.
Children begin to have a sense of self esteem that is equal to an adult when they are only 5 years old although this sense of self worth actually begins at the age of 3. Many of us don’t realize this but the latest studies bear it out and what you say to a child at this tender age can and will affect their self image for the rest of their lives. Knowing this we can see just how important it is to correct our children in a way that doesn’t hurt the way they think of themselves. It is, in fact, crucial.
There is a big difference between reacting to a child’s bad behavior and responding to it. When you react to something you respond automatically and without conscious thought. Jumping at a sudden unexpected noise is a type of reaction. When you respond to something however you are mindful as to what you are doing and saying and are doing so to achieve a desired result such as teaching your child that their behavior at the time is not acceptable. It is the difference between thinking and not thinking.
Remember that when a child is corrected they tend to retreat inward in an attempt to “protect” themselves from the unpleasantness of the situation. This is completely normal but it also means that he/she is averting their attention away from you and is actually less able to do what you are instructing them to do. Now you know why your child often seems to be ignoring you when you are correcting them!
It’s a type of defensive response and it is perfectly normal. Being aware of this it is easy to see that becoming even more stern with your child at that time is not the right way to handle the situation. In other words, yelling louder will only damage their self esteem and will not get their attention. Your patience and understanding and being able to explain to them in a way they can understand is the most effective way to correct them at such times.
Finally, keep in mind that what you don’t say can send just as clear a message as what you do say. Correction is a vital part of parenting but so is praise. How many times have you seen a parent that is constantly correcting their child but never praises them for doing something good? If you get excited about something that your child has done, so will he/she!
When a child is corrected for undesirable behavior and rewarded for doing something good, only then can they learn the difference between the two. A “punishment only” approach to parenting is doomed to failure and more importantly you will be teaching your child that there is no sense in doing good except to avoid punishment; there is no reward. And what is the difference between right and wrong if all that matters is not getting caught?