Whilst my parenting style is fairly relaxed, good behaviour is one aspect I don’t compromise on. I expect a lot of my kids and for their sake, believe it’s an important part of my role as their parent to discipline them. I’m not their friend… And yet, I also feel that discipline in general has become a bit of a taboo subject and that there are two camps; those that discipline non stop and see it as crucial to their child’s development, and those that find it restricting, and feel children should be left alone to be children. I fall somewhere in the middle. So whether it’s the importance of ‘please’ and ‘thank yous’ or knowing that it’s not OK to wallop your sibling around the head, here’s my tuppence worth on how to not let the (toddler) sh*t hit the fan too many times. Of course every single parent and child is different; this is just what works for me. Read on or watch this video if you’re more in to that:
1. Less is more
It stands to reason that if you are constantly telling your children what to do, where to go, what not to touch etc, it’s likely that the important stuff will slip through the net. Make less noise and hold back for the really important “hold-my-hand-this-is-a–fast-road” sort of lines. I’m really careful with the amount of instruction or ‘telling off’ I give the kids; I think this means that when I do discipline them, they know I mean it and take it on board.
2. Stick to your word
Be firm and don’t cave in when the reaction follows. If you’ve made a condition, stick to it otherwise there’s no boundary or real consequences being put in place. Also, if you don’t follow through on what you’ve said, your kids will soon suss out that by behaving badly will eventually lead to them getting their own way.
3. Be consistent
It’s super important that both you and your partner are both on the same page when it comes to discipline – what things matter to you? What can you let slip? And if something matters to your partner that you couldn’t give two hoots about, I’d say it’s about communicating fully and coming up with a middle ground that your little ones can understand. Otherwise, it just becomes confusing…
4. Leave the stern words for later
This is a particularly personal one but I choose not to discipline the kids in public. Personally I think it’s uncomfortable for everyone involved; for you, for your kids, for the person at the table next to you just trying to enjoy their lunch break. Of course I’ll try to gently tell them that they mustn’t swing on the chair, for example, but I don’t think it’s right to make a scene disciplining your child.
5. Employ all the tactics
Yes, “if” is uttered a good few times throughout any given day and usually closely followed by “Thomas the Tank Engine”. I personally find gentle bribery really helpful; but don’t do unrealistic bribes. I’m not going to tell Jack that if he does something, he won’t go to his friend’s birthday party because I know that I’d never actually follow through on that one. Also, distraction, repetition and questions are your best friends – super simple questions (“What’s up there?”, “What are you doing tomorrow?”, “What shall we have for dinner?”) work a treat when they’re on the verge of switching into tantrum mode. I think it’s the combination of distraction and engagement that can often grab a kid’s attention and divert it.
6. Practice Time Out
I’ll sometimes calmly put one of the kids outside the room if they’re misbehaving mainly just to give them space for them, that I actually really think they themselves might be craving in that moment (even if they don’t always know they are). I suppose it is a way of excluding them, but I see it also as a means to change up their state and they always return calmer and ready to reengage with what’s going on.
7. Overtiredness eats good behaviour for breakfast – you can try and try and try but if my kids are tired, they always behave sub optimally. In fact generally, when they are misbehaving it’s because they’re tired and need a sleep so as their mum, if I can, I’ll remove them gently from the situation and encourage them to nap.
8. Stay calm
I really always try to stay really calm and never raise your voice. I get down onto their level slowly, look them in the eye and speak softly but firmly. I’m sure that if I were to lose my patience and become stressed, then their behaviour, along with the general situation, only worsens. For this reason, I always make sure I get enough sleep as it’s when I’m knackered that I’m least patient and that’s inevitably when their bad behaviour will most challenge.
9. It’s good to talk
If the kids behave badly we *always* talk about it afterwards once they are calm and happy. We mull it over whilst in the bath that night, whilst walking along the next day, and sometimes (gently) before they go to bed. Maybe I think of it as some kind of weird toddler (& parent) therapy but I think it helps to remind them what bad behaviour is and to try to work out what caused it.
10. And when nothing works (because sometimes it doesn’t)
TV. Ice cream. Daytime baths. Walks in Nature. These are all things we have in our parenting toolkit that can be really, really good for their soul. And good for ours too.
Do you use any of these techniques or do you have any others up your sleeve to encourage good behaviour from your kids?