To spank or not to spank. One generation is so quick to remind us that it worked for them, but experts have long argued, and studies have shown, that the practice can lower a child’s self-esteem and lead to even worse, often-aggressive behaviour in the long run.
Whatever your personal opinion on the subject, spanking may soon be banned in Canada as it is in so many other countries. So what is a frustrated parent to do when their child is acting up and they’re at their wits’ end?
First and foremost, most disciplinary experts agree that trying to punish a child for bad behaviour in any situation where your own emotions are getting the best of you is a recipe for disaster. Count to 10, breathe in and out or even leave the room if you have to — just do whatever it is you need to do in order to get control of the situation and yourself.
Then, you may want to consider proceeding with one of these strategies that many moms and dads swear by.
Present them with options
Is your kid playing with his dinner rather than eating it? Calmly explain that he can either finish the food or go get ready for his bath. Is she rough-housing with the dog and getting it riled up? Let her choose between playing nicely or moving on to another task. If it makes sense and you’re able to present options that work for your family in a given situation, try it out. The child will feel like he or she has some control and will hopefully stop the negative behaviour.
Leave the situation
Public temper tantrums are never fun — for you or your kid. Usually a child throws tantrums when they feel as though they have no control in a situation or their emotions are being pressed to the max. Sound familiar? One solution is to leave, immediately. You may not want to (those groceries may still be in the cart, for example), but your child probably won’t either. Exiting the situation can sometimes be the quickest way to calm them down and get them thinking about their behaviour.
Require pay-back time
Did your kid’s temper tantrum cost you a half an hour of your life at that aforementioned grocery store? You may want to make your kid pay back your time by helping you out in one of your chores. Say, the dishes or sweeping the kitchen. This can work for a variety of situations: your son makes a sibling late so you get him to take over a chore for a week, or your daughter tramples the neighbour’s lawn so you get her to weed it next weekend, for example. The theory is that making your kids give up some of the time they have caused others to lose teaches them what kind of an effect their behaviour has on others.
Use a time out
This is the most popular option for many parents (who usually need a time out themselves). When a child’s emotions are maxed out they often need a space to calm down. A room without toys or a time out wall or chair are often good spots. Time outs are said to be best for attitude problems rather than during “teachable moments,” though, where a more immediate way to address the situation is present. Such as…
Remove an inanimate object
If siblings are fighting over a toy, and despite various efforts to get them to stop they won’t, take the toy away. Same goes for a child who refuses to clean up their room or is mistreating an item. Put any confiscated items away in a special, predetermined place and don’t give them back for a week or until a specific day of the week. Then they get to start all over again with a fresh slate.
Take away technology
Thanks to tablets, phones, computers and video games, there are several new time sucks and distractions to worry about out there. As such, setting down rules for the loss of tech time may be a viable punishment for your family. Have a predetermined scale so that your kids know exactly what kinds of consequences they could be facing if they refuse to listen or do their chores. Not finishing a dinner could mean no tablet before bed, for example.
Extend an apology
Have fighting children? Or perhaps your little one keeps arguing with someone at school? Whatever it is, if they’re having an argument with someone get them to work it out by naming several things they like about the other person. Have both parties participate. The trick is that the kids aren’t allowed to say the same things, which means they’ll have to really think about it. Of course, this should usually be paired with an apology.
Let’s clarify: offer rewards, not bribes. If your kid is having a meltdown, maybe in the heat of the moment isn’t the best time to promise them ice cream if they behave. However, if you’re about to embark on a day of errands, let your kids know that if they behave for the entire day you’ll reward them with ice cream at the end of it. You can create a sliding scale and timeline to suit your own needs — think chore charts with rewards at the end of the week or a new toy for finishing their dinner every night for a month.
Talk it Out
Sometimes your child will be punished without you having to do anything at all. If you’ve warned them not to leave their stuffed animals outside, for example, and then the rain ruins them they’ll feel pretty bad about their thing being ruined. In situations like this, talking it out is usually a great way to go because it can help a child understand how their actions led to this consequence, and avoids a “double” punishment.
Whatever you do or however you proceed, keep calm and parent on. And just remember that if you do happen to lose your cool, it’s okay. We all do it. Just get back on that discipline horse and know that you’re not alone.