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For those of us who have been presented with the privilege and challenge of working from home with our kids amidst this pandemic, times have been especially trying — especially now that the weather has grown colder and the days have grown longer. The allure of working and learning remotely has grown stale and your kids may be trying your patience more than ever since the cold weather is likely limiting their time outdoors, leaving them with more pent-up energy than they have during warmer months. The struggle is mad real and thus, you may find yourself raising your voice a lot more often — even though you’ve always vowed that you’d never be one of those parents.
Truthfully, this pandemic is trying our patience in more ways than one so there’s a good chance that your patience is even shorter than usual, which means you may be going to bed feeling guilty a lot more frequently as a result of all of the times you lost your cool that day. After several weeks of this, you’ve probably come to realize that yelling is highly ineffective when it comes to getting kids to do what you want them to.
So if you’re tired of raising your voice and your blood pressure, here are 10 ways to instill discipline in your kids that don’t include yelling.
A rewards system
When we think of discipline, we have a tendency to harp on consequences for misbehavior; however, the truth of the matter is that the best behavior management techniques are preventative. Instead of focusing on being punitive, which is actually a reaction to misbehavior, you’ll want to be proactive and attempt to prevent misbehavior in the first place. One great way to do this is by creating a rewards system through which your kids receive points of some sort when they demonstrate desired behavior. When they accumulate a certain number of points, reward them.
A ladder of consequences
If we’re being honest, some kids require much more than rewards and a stern talking to. They test boundaries and are sometimes flat out disobedient. For these personality types, having a predetermined ladder of consequences is essential. This helps to take the emotion out of discipline and create consistency because your child will come to know what to expect as a result of his or her poor behavior. The first step on the ladder may just be a firm look or a conversation. Next, you may choose to escalate to having your child take a time-out of some sort, and so on. The ladder may look different from one household to the next, but what’s most important is that you determine the steps ahead of time and implement them consistently.
Of course, none of this will work in the absence of consistency. Do what you say you’re going to do as much as humanly possible. If you’ve promised to reward your child for outstanding behavior, do it. If you promised to take privileges away for poor behavior, do that too. Even if you’re tired, keep your word.
Speaking of consistency, you’ll want to keep that same energy for all of your kids. If they’re close in age, consequences and rewards should look similar. If the ages vary, try to keep them uniform, but also age-appropriate. Kids are hyperaware of fairness and favoritism. Unfair treatment will likely produce and escalate misbehavior.
Praise and positive narration
Not all rewards are tangible. Positive attention goes a long way, so if you catch your child being “good” call it out and be super specific about it. Instead of “Great job,” try, “I noticed that you put your toys away without being asked today. That was great.” Your child now knows what behavior is not only acceptable but desirable.
Take a time out
These kids will try you, so if you feel yourself getting to the point where you want to go off, step away and take some time alone. Timeouts are not just for kids, they’re helpful for grownups, too. Return when you can calmly address the situation.
Recognize your triggers
We all have triggers that make our patience especially short. For some, it’s hunger or fatigue. For others, it’s running late. Whatever they are, having a healthy awareness of them can make you more mindful and less likely to lose your cool when your kid inevitably messes up.
Know your child’s triggers as well
Kids have their own sets of triggers as well. For example, toddlers are more likely to tantrum when they’re tired or hungry. Teens may be especially moody or defiant after a negative interaction with a peer or teacher. You can help your little ones by maintaining a nap, snack, and meal schedule. You can support your older kids through frequent check-ins.
Make a job out of it
Kids are notoriously clumsy, which means lots of spills and messes. Some of it is due to carelessness, which is when it’s especially frustrating. When you feel tempted to go off, take a deep breath, and turn it into a job instead. Depending on the age, you can either have them help you to clean up the mess or let them clean it up alone.
There is almost nothing that you can do that will guarantee your child will be well behaved 100 percent of the time; however, planning ahead, whenever possible, will help to reduce misbehavior significantly. If you’re going to be shopping with a toddler, pack a snack and go equipped with a list so that you can move through the store more quickly. Or, if you know that your older child will be home all day with minimal supervision, plan out a few things for them to do that will keep them occupied.