Parenting is hard, there is no doubt about it! Parenting is even harder when you have to figure out how you want to discipline your kids. Here is a list of discipline mistakes most parents make, and how you can avoid making them!
Discipline Mistakes Most Parents Make
1. Telling Lies
It can be so tempting at times to tell our kids little white lies. Your intentions are usually in the right place and you often get away with it. But that doesn’t make it right. The worst part of all about telling our kids a lie is when you get caught. The disappointment and injustice of it all is more than I can bear to think of putting my boys through. I’ve found that as cliché as it is to say, honesty always really is the best policy. Have an open and honest conversation with your child when time allows… I’m always amazed at how much children really do understand. For more information and great suggestions for a variety of situations, check out Goop.
2. Caving In
Before I was married and had kids I had my first real interactions with children as a teacher. One of the first lessons I learned with my students was to never back down from following through with consequences. The minute you do that is the minute children know, even if subconsciously, that they can manipulate the situation. Empty threats will not correct inappropriate behaviors. Don’t be afraid of being the bad guy. You are not your child’s friend… You are the parent. Read more here.
This is one of the biggest discipline mistakes most parents make. Inconsistencies between parents will undoubtedly lead to problems down the road. Your kids will learn which parent to go to when they want something and the other will become the “bad guy”. Sit down as a couple and determine ways in which you can both agree to discipline your children. Learn more about how parents can back each other up from Raising Children.
4. Excessive Bribes
Making promises or offering bribes to kids is so easy and tempting! If we need them to cooperate and keep calm, we offer a bribe. If we want them to eat their dinner rather than waste the food, we offer a bribe. There are times and situations when I DO actually think this is appropriate. But there really is a fine line between offering a positive incentive and bribing to get through a difficult situation or bind. Perhaps the worst consequence of offering excessive bribes is that children start to expect the bribe. Once the offer is off the table, good luck getting them to behave. I have found that the best way to change bad behavior and encourage good is to focus on the good. Every time your child demonstrates good behavior, give them praise. Children love getting positive feedback more than they want a bit of extra chocolate after eating all their broccoli. Head to Empowering Parents for more information.
5. Losing Your Cool
We’ve all been there. Our child becomes stubborn and resistant, perhaps he/she throws a temper tantrum… whatever it is, it can cause your blood to boil and you might even lose your own temper. You get angry, yell, maybe even say things you shouldn’t. If this sounds familiar, then it really shouldn’t surprise you when your child loses their temper as well. Children will model the behavior they observe from caregivers. If kids observe mom and dad losing their tempers, their own behaviors will reflect mom and dad’s negative reactions. Likewise, if children observe parents keeping their cool in heated situations, children will, with the proper guidance, learn to do the same. For advice on how to keep your cool, read more on What to Expect.
6. Consequences Not Immediate Enough
Children most likely won’t admit it, but they like having, or at least knowing, that there are consequences to inappropriate behaviors. Consequences provide a sense of security for children as they mean that they live in an environment that sets and follows rules and expects only positive behaviors. The problem with this for adults, however, is that it means we have to actually follow through. It’s easier to go with a soft reprimand and avoid conflict than to give a full punishment. As nice as it is to stay conflict free, all that this avoiding does is allow a problem to grow until it becomes so big that the punishment has to become more severe as well. Deal with issues along the way when they are small and can be handled in a much less severe way. Read more from The Next Family.
7. Talking Too Long
I’ve seen it in my classroom a thousand times. Eyes glaze over, hands stop going up in the air, and heads begin to droop. I do my best not to let lessons get to this point, but when it happens, I know it’s immediately time to stop and move on. The simple fact is that children will only stay focused on a topic or conversation for a short while. If you want them to not just listen to but hear what you are saying to them, you must keep statements short and to the point. They’ll also be more likely to remain engaged in a conversation if you let them actively participate and come up with answers or solutions on their own. Psychology Today explains more about how to discipline children without losing their attention through drawn out discussions.
8. Break Your Own Rules
Children will mimic what they see you doing. Don’t confuse them or make them think rules apply to everyone but them by breaking your own rules. I see this all the time when I’m out in stores or at a restaurant. I’ll see parents getting after their children for fighting and then when the cashier or waiter makes a simple mistake, the parent becomes confrontational. Seems a bit of a double standard, don’t you think? It takes real effort, but adults must always be aware that they have little eyes watching them. What you do is what your children will do. The Atlantic shares more here about how parents can improve on ignoring or breaking their own rules.
9. Being Negative
It’s really quite simple when you think about it: whatever behaviors a parent focuses on pointing out are the behaviors a child will manifest. What children know is that they want your attention and whichever behaviors elicit that attention from you, even if it’s negative attention, those are the behaviors children will practice. If you want your children to follow rules, cooperate, and get along with others, praise those behaviors as much and as often as appropriate. Flintobox explains how parents can avoid negativity and focus on being positive instead. This is one of the discipline mistakes most parents make that can really damage your relationship with your child.
10. Consequences Don’t Match Actions
Sadly, this is one of the discipline mistakes most parents make that I see a lot. Another lesson I learned early on as a young teacher before having children of my own was the importance of consequences matching the behavior. It’s easy in the world of education to hold a child in from recess when they cheat on a test or continually blurt out and disrupt the class. But what how does taking recess away relate to cheating? The consequence doesn’t help the child learn directly from their mistakes. In order for consequences to have a lasting effect, they must match the behaviors that are inappropriate. Read more here.
I hope this list of discipline mistakes most parents make helps you out and teaches you ways to avoid those mistakes. For more parenting tips, check out my post on practice what you preach: why you should parent by example.