Remaining calm under pressure can be difficult, particularly when faced with the many challenges young children (especially toddlers) can present to their caregiver. Going “boneless” anyone? Whether you’re a nanny, parent or relative, a quick review of some time-tested positive discipline approaches can help you more easily diffuse common discipline issues.
As caregivers and parents we all have a responsibility to help guide and shape the lives of our charges and children (it takes a village, really). Our actions can and will impact the behavior of the children we care for, and positive discipline approaches provide helpful techniques to direct children toward more appropriate behaviors AND helps adults better understand the origin of the more undesirable child behavior.
Below are a few tips and resources I’ve found helpful for putting positive discipline to work. (Full disclosure: It takes patience, practice and more patience. I wish I had better mastery of these techniques.)
1. Redirect that energy into something productive. Anyone who regularly spends time with toddlers and young children will encounter a time when a child is climbing or running where they shouldn’t or simply acting in a way we would prefer they didn’t. A great technique to handle these events is to find fun and engaging ways to channel that energy in a more appropriate way. For example, rather than repeatedly asking them to stop throwing pebbles at the playground, engage them in a game of collecting and counting the pebbles.
2. Giving bribes sends the wrong message. We’ve all needed to get to the other side of an event, ride, meal, street, etc. without incident and handing out a bribe is often the easiest way. However, while bribing can bring a short-term gain, it comes at a long-term cost. If I offer a bribe to my kids to get them to remain quiet it suggests I’ll continue to offer a reward for the desired behavior in the future. It also suggests to children that the desired behavior (i.e. the good behavior, such as being quiet or holding hands while crossing the street) isn’t something they should ever want to do on their own, since I’m willing to reward them for it.
3. Did you say something? Selective hearing can help reduce the whining. When whining and tantrums appear, an effective means to reducing this behavior is often to ignore it. This can be really difficult, but the more you ignore the whines and the more consistently you reinforce good communication, the more likely the whines will dissipate over time. Our goal is to teach children to communicate effectively, so celebrating the positive and ignoring the negative can go a long way.
4. Kids thrive on routine and consistency. Routines are comforting to children and can greatly reduce the stresses and anxieties around the many transitions that take place during the typical day. We all know what it can be like when a child is tired or hungry, and sticking to a routine can avoid the stress that comes with hunger and fatigue. So, in addition to keeping snacks handy in case you are forced to delay a meal, keeping children on their regular routines is healthy and can go a long way in reducing everyone’s anxiety levels. As a caregiver, it’s important to understand existing routines and communicate with families as these routines evolve over time.
Let’s face it, anyone who spends time with young children will run into a fit, tantrum, bite or flying piece of food at some point. I hope the above tips are helpful and have enclosed a few additional resources to help prepare for the inevitable:
What is Positive Discipline – via Wikipedia
Seven Tips for Practicing Positive Discipline- via PBS Parents
Positive Guidance and Discipline Strategies: Description and Explanation – via Education.com
Punishment or positive discipline? – via SuperNanny.co.uk
Positive Discipline and Child Guidance – via LivingMontessori.com
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This is the first in our series of how to handle negative behavior. Stay tuned for additional posts from parents, nannies, and child psychologists on the topic of positive approaches to common disciplinary issues.
Nick Newlin is on the founding team at SitterCycle and currently serves as President and Chief Marketing Officer. When Nick isn’t working to support nannies and families, he’s likely spending time with his wife, 5 year old son, and twin 4 year old daughters. Prior to joining the SitterCycle team, Nick was Vice President of Marketing and Digital Experience at Isis Parenting. Previously he spent time at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Elluminate/Blackboard, Inc, and The Princeton Review. Nick can be found on twitter @nnewlin or at a playground near you.