“Don’t talk to me that way.” “Quit slamming the door.” Isn’t it amazing how the first words that often come out of a parent’s mouth is a description of what our kids are doing wrong. Then we threaten and soon we’re in the middle of an argument. Taken too far, we may resort to harsh punishment like a slap to the face or a spanking. Later when we cool down, we may realize that nothing was learned and the same problem is apt to happen again and again.
This is where discipline enters the picture. When we want to change behavior, we need to do more than describe what kids are doing wrong. We have to name specifically what we want them to do. Kids do better when we use positives. Here are three simple examples.
- “Don’t slam the door.” — “Please shut the door quietly.”
- “Don’t yell at your sister.” — “Talk to your sister in a pleasant voice.”
- “Don’t be late tonight.” — “Be home by your 10:30 curfew.”
Some parents find they can improve problems with their kids by helping them earn privileges and rewards. This is kind of like the flip side of giving penalties when kids misbehave. It goes like this: instead of grounding your teen for getting home late, you extend her curfew 15 minutes if she gets home on time for two weekends. Or if you son eats what is served for supper during the week, he gets to choose what’s for supper on Friday night.
Your child needs to help decide what the privilege will be. And it shouldn’t be something you can’t afford or takes too much time. Obviously it needs to be something your child wants or values and must be something he can earn soon.
So what do you think? Would this work with your kids?