10 top discipline tips
Parenting expert Sister Lilian shares her golden guidelines for dealing with problem behaviour.
If your toddler is troublesome, start afresh with these golden guidelines from Sister Lilian.
- Example is all-important so consider your own actions and reactions as parents and individuals, realising that there is also a personality-gene component to temperament.
- Spend significant time with your child often. This means nothing must disrupt your time together and you should rediscover the joy and fantasy of a childhood world with your child, reading, picking flowers, stroking the dog, etc.
- Reward positive behaviour by interacting with your child at such times too (not only waiting for bad behaviour to notice your child), not in a patronising way or by taking over your child's game or activity, but simply quietly joining in.
- Have few wise, loving, consistent house rules that recognise the nature of a child (so they mustn't be too adult-like!). Reach consensus between partners about house rules. Don’t discuss these in front of your child. Be prepared to accept that rules will not necessarily be exactly the same as when you were a child and practice the art of give and take, so that both parents feel good about the rules. Always test them against the bigger picture. Tidiness in the home teaches a child many good things but fighting daily about perfection leaves a legacy of unhappy memories and associations, for instance.
- Use the word 'no' as seldom as possible as it will carry no effect if forever in use but not backed up with action. The child's safety and respect for other people and their values and property are the most essential occasions on which a firm 'no' without the need to explain in detail should be used.
- Even if you are able to afford it, do not give in to your child’s every material wish. These are limitless anyway, but it is a most valuable lesson to learn, that things of value must be earned and that contentment depends on many other things too. Rather give of your time and teach your child to fold a paper jet than buy the most convincing model plane.
- Do not be a slave to your child. If you give them their due by spending significant time with them, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer, it is your right to firmly but kindly let them know who the parent is.
- Learn and use the skill of distraction as this is an excellent tool for teaching self-discipline. Helping your child to rather channel negative energy (which might well lead to tantrum behaviour) into something pleasant or constructive teaches the lesson that you do not always need to do what you feel compelled to right then, but that your mood can improve a great deal while you pace yourself by consciously doing some other activity. The key to successful distraction is noticing the build-up of negative patterns in time, and drawing attention away by offering a compelling enough alternative activity. Generally if this involves animals, water, mud or bubbles, most little ones will respond easily and leave off the negative behaviour. Keep a handy “wits’ end” list stuck to your fridge to consult when you simply cannot think of an effective distraction.
- If after all of this (and you must not skip any of these steps!), your little one still throws a tantrum or displays other unacceptable behaviour, simply say a firm 'no', turn around and walk away, not making any further eye contact or conversation. Keep moving as your little one will probably follow you and make their feelings known increasingly loudly. Play music to help soothe you (and your toddler).
- By letting your child get to you now, you would be the audience, your child the actor! Remove the audience value and no actor will perform. Obviously this technique will need to be adapted a little if you are out and about, but if you are consistent at home, tricky situations will occur less and less frequently elsewhere.
What’s your number one discipline tip?
- Remember too that little ones pick up on their parent's anxiety and can then play up. Taking Rescue Remedy (sometimes just you, the parent, but also helpful for the child) can cut through behaviour that builds into a vicious circle, due to the anxiety factor. Toddlers with tantrum tendencies, where it seems to be in their personality, often do very well on a course of homoeopathic Chamomilla D6. Read more about Sister Lilian’s natural remedies.