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Experts Share Their Best Discipline Secrets

Experts Share Their Best Discipline Secrets

By Kelcey Kintner

When it comes to disciplining kids, parents can sometimes feel… well, a bit defeated. Time outs, taking away the treasured smart phone or insisting on an “I’m sorry” don’t always improve behavior. So what does? I hunted down some parenting experts looking for some fresh ideas on discipline and ways to encourage good behavior from kids. Every kid is different but here are five out-of-the-box, creative ideas to try (and, they’re all new-to-me). Plus, don’t forget to tell us what works for you!

1. A Negative Behavior Requires a Positive One

My 6 year old likes to try out fun words that he learned at school like, “Stupid head” on his 12 year old sister. She doesn’t view this as fun, like he does. So when he repeatedly calls her names, he is then required to write down five things he loves about her.

If the bad behavior continues, he has to buy her flowers at the market. Not expensive ones. But, a batch of $3 flowers. And it’s really a win-win because she adores flowers and he hates spending his saved-up birthday money on anything not superhero-related. But that’s what happens when you call someone a stupid head.

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Alissa Sheldon recommends this kind of meaningful discipline. And the more immediate, the better. She says, “If a child is calling his sister names, ask him or her to make up a song using words that mean the opposite. This not only stops the inappropriate behavior but also redirects the child in a way that may not have been expected.”

Sharon Silver, a parenting educator and founder of Proactive Parenting, suggests a Make-Up Box. Each member of the family writes out 3 or 4 cards that say, “When I’m offended, this would make me feel better….” It’s the parent who gets to decides when amends need to be made but the offending child gets to choose the card. So let’s say Bobby throws something at Angie. Bobby will pick one of Angie’s cards and do something nice for her.  As a parent, one of my cards will definitely be… “When you roll your eyes at me, it will make me feel better if you empty the dishwasher.”

Some kids may be too young for a Make Up Box. Maybe a young child dumps out a bunch of nail polishes (agh!!), so Silver suggests asking the child things like, “Are you allowed to touch things that don’t belong to you? How will you clean this up? Since you have no money, let’s talk about how you can help me around the house so I can go buy these things again.”

2. Don’t Immediately Jump to “I’m Sorry”

Don’t force a kid to say, “I’m sorry” right away. Connecticut teacher Megan O’Rourke Agee tries to help the child figure out a solution. For example, she’ll say to the student, “Now that you hit Sarah on the arm, she is crying and hurt.  How can you fix this problem?” Agee will give the child ideas on how to potentially fix the situation like asking the hurt child if she is ok, if there is anything he or she can do to help (like get an ice pack).

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Mandi Silverman of the Child Mind Institute agrees that “I’m sorry” doesn’t have to come right away. She says, “Once you get the kid back on track with good behavior and after everyone has cooled off, you can encourage a child to say sorry.” She says an “I’m sorry” won’t likely change future behavior but it can make the other person feel better.

3. Show Instead of Tell

I am constantly preaching to my children, “Show kindness and compassion to your siblings!” But it must come out as, “Make annoying noises until you break your siblings’ spirit” because I often get ignored.

Behavioral Consultant Kirk Martin recommends parents stop talking and start showing. He suggests making a heart out of construction paper and when you want to remind a certain child to be kind, hand him or her the heart. That way there is no yelling or lecturing. It’s just a visual reminder.

It’s always helpful for parents to also model good behavior whenever possible. Of course, we all have our not-so-great-parent moments but that’s why every day is a new start!

4. Help Them Manage Their Anger

So what is a kid supposed to do with his or her anger? It’s a good idea to encourage a child to hit a pillow or stuffed animal instead of a sibling, parent or friend.

Another idea? Visualization. Teacher Megan O’Rourke Agee explains, “If a boy is very angry, ask him to close his eyes and picture a place he loves to be. Literally tell the child how to do it.”  O’Rourke says, you can provide an example like this… ‘I’m feeling angry so I’m going to close my eyes and picture a warm beach with bright blue water and soft warm sand between my toes.  What does your calm place look like?'”

5. “Try Again”

Proactive Parenting founder Sharon Silver says the two best words in the English language are, “Try again.” For an older kid, she gives this example… “When approached with an attitude or snarky words, instead of saying, ‘Don’t you dare talk to me that way!’ simply say, “Try again.” If the child continues the poor behavior, repeat, “Try again” as often as needed. There is no anger, only firmness. Say, “Thank you” once your child has dropped the attitude.

For a younger child, you repeat the same mantra. If a child throws something, pick it up and say, “Let me know when you are ready to try again the way you know you’re supposed to.” As we all know, children can be very persistent. So if the child throws it again, simply say, “Try again.”

Silver says, “In both cases you handle things in the moment, sending the silent message that the world has been put on hold until you change your behavior. There is no anger, no yelling, no punishing, just firm, calm teaching.”

Any great outside-the-box discipline ideas that work  for your own kids? Please share!

Photo source: Depositphoto/sjhuls

About the Author

Kelcey Kintner

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog 

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog The Mama Bird Diaries and writes for the Huffington Post. You can follow her @mamabirddiaries or on Facebook. She’s still trying to fit 5 kids on a Vespa. 

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