Children will always be children, and misbehaving is part of being a kid. More often than not, most parents assume that misbehaving kids need to be punished to teach them a lesson. That, however, may not be the most ideal way of dealing with them.
When you punish kids by yelling, spanking or even with stern or cold language, they learn to act aggressively. Then again, leaving them alone with their thoughts as a form of symbolic abandonment isn’t recommended too. Also referred to as timeouts, leaving them alone to ponder on their most recent misbehavior means you’re abandoning them with their big scary feelings at a time when they need you the most.
If there’s one effective way to guide your kids without punishing them in any way shape or form, it’s to treat children with compassion and understanding, even when they’ve done something they shouldn’t have done. Here are some ways that we can do just that.
Keep in mind they’re just expressing a legitimate need
No matter how misguided their latest misbehavior may be, always remember that it is always an expression of something that they really need. It could be they need more sleep, more time with you or a chance to vent any pent-up emotions they’re holding back inside. Naturally, you will have to address whatever that need is.
Keep your own emotions in check
Any misdeed of our children would naturally make us upset, but we have to regulate our own emotions before dealing with it. Remember, we are the role models, and we won’t be good role models if we deal with a misbehavior with heated emotions. Besides, how can you expect to treat children with compassion and understanding when you’re fuming mad? So if you feel like you’re about to yell or scream at your kid, turn around and leave the room. Take a deep breath outside and wait until you calm down before talking to your child about what he or she had done.
Remember how they learn
Most of the things you’ve taught your children were absorbed by repetition, or routine. Brushing teeth, taking a bath, tying shoelaces—these are things you taught them by showing them how they’re done until they can do it by themselves. The same goes for good behavior or manners like saying thank you, good morning, waiting for their turn at a line and not taking things that aren’t theirs. So when they find themselves in a situation where they can misbehave, everything they have learned about good behavior is going to kick in, and that will give them a chance to do the right thing.
Being a parent is all about rules, but when you’re setting these limits, make sure you do it with empathy. Make sure your child knows that you understand things from his or her perspective. They’ll be more able to follow those rules if they feel that you understand how they feel too.
Don’t wait for them to misbehave before talking to them
If you only talk to your child when they misbehave, you can expect a lot of problems in the future. You need to talk—and listen—to your child on a daily basis. Share experiences, give guidance about moral principles, the behavior expected of them and give them opportunities to reflect.
Let your child express emotions in your presence
A misbehaving child always has these feelings of fear and anger inside them. Instead of giving the child a scolding, just sit there with your child and provide an environment where he or she can express feelings, in your presence. Being in the same room with a safe, attentive and accepting adult them offers kids a calm environment where they can work their emotions out. This sort of outlet can help them learn to self-soothe and eventually keep their own emotions in check. As much as possible, never lecture or reason with your child at the height of his or her being upset.
Do not make your child responsible for your feelings
I personally have heard parents say something along the lines of “look what you made me do”, or “you are making me mad” when disciplining their misbehaving kids. Don’t add any more negative emotions into a kid who’s already overflowing with them at the moment. You can’t treat children with compassion and understanding if you’re blaming them for your being upset. Instead of making the child responsible for what you’re feeling, place the responsibility on yourself. Something like “I’m so frustrated right now” would be a good start.
Always connect before correcting your child
Keep in mind that kids misbehave when they feel like they’re disconnected from us and they feel bad about themselves. So when you’re guiding your children, always connect and stay connected to your child in simple ways such as a hand on the shoulder, loving eye contact or picking him or her up. When you these things to connect before correcting your child, you are in effect making a child want to be his or her best self.
So the next time your child misbehaves, use these tips to guide your kids without punishing them and see the difference for yourself.