1. Meet the Need
This is probably the number one thing you can do to stop or prevent unwanted behavior. It is vital that the underlying cause of a behavior be addressed. Often, meeting the need stops the behavior and no correction is even needed.
For instance, if your child tends to have meltdowns half an hour before lunch, don’t send her to her room or to a chair for punishment. Think a moment – right before lunch probably means her blood sugar is low, or she’s just hungry. Give her a light snack that won’t spoil lunch instead. And next time, plan a mid-morning snack and watch the pre-lunchtime meltdowns melt away.
Some children act “bad” because they have needs for attention, approval, or affection. Your child is not “manipulating” you to get what he wants; he is communicating with you to express his needs which he is too young to meet (or even verbalize) himself.
2. Discipline versus Punishment
Think discipline rather than punishment. This may require some “re-wiring” of your thinking patterns! Discipline means to guide and teach, whereas punishment intends to inflict unpleasant feelings (pain, isolation, etc.) in order to prevent the repetition of a behavior. But children can learn all kinds of things – most things, in fact – without punishment. Do you punish your child to teach her to read, to dress herself or to speak? No, you probably just encouraged the behavior by example and praise. The same goes for household rules.
Rather than sending a child to the corner, a chair, or his room when he misbehaves, try setting up a comfortable area of your home that can act as a retreat. This can be a corner with books, maybe some snacks, and a place to cuddle. This is not rewarding bad behavior, but rather meeting the need of a disgruntled child by comforting and reassuring her.
Try to think of things from your child’s point of view – if you are having a bad day and are acting less than pleasant to those around you, does it help you more if your spouse or friend brings you a comforting cup of tea and gives you a hug, or yells at you and sends you away?
4. Be Proactive
Punishment is, as noted above, easy. Too easy. Real discipline means you have to get into the act and often take a hands-on approach to helping your child follow the rules.
For example, you may have a requirement that all toys be put away before bedtime. Rather than making the demand and punishing the child if she doesn’t follow them, explain the rules and outline a method. “Right after your bath, let’s remember to put away your toys.” Help your child implement the plan. Don’t do it for him, of course, but participate and show him where things belong. Make it a competition or a game – “Bet you can’t do it in less than 5 minutes!” and time him. Before too long it will become a habit and you probably won’t even have to say anything.
We hope that Alternative Punishments for Children helps you and your children communicate and get along better!