5 Ways to Discipline Your Little Horrorsby Abigail Stanley
My own little horror is 3-year-old Teddy. Think blond hair, blue eyes, hard to imagine this angel would leave you watching the second-hand tick by intently at 11:59 just waiting for it to hit 12:00, a time which you have now decided socially acceptable to drink gin.
Last Friday I collected Teddy from our childminder who told us that Teddy had displayed bad behaviour. Upon asking Teddy, in my faux-I don’t shout at my child, I’m a good mother I promise-way, he answered by throwing a tantrum in front of everyone. Through gritted teeth, I bid our childminder farewell and dragged Teddy home.
After failing at trying to have a human conversation I told him he was going straight to bed. This simply enraged Lucifer, I mean Teddy and the screaming just heightened. I thought about a compromise and offered Teddy a bath. A miracle! He was happy again, he had a new bath bomb, great, he loves bath bombs.
While the bath was running, I looked into the bathroom, where Teddy was waiting, to find him licking the bath bomb and laughing. This child knows full well not to do this, so I shouted and told him he was not using the bath bomb tonight and he could get a bath without.
I often have moments where I wonder where Teddy has come from, but, when I told him he couldn’t have a bath bomb, there I was, a shrunken angry 3-year-old me. Teddy’s eyes flashed, he slammed the bathroom door and screamed: “it’s not fair!” And “I don't even want a stupid bath”, and stormed into his room. Think Harry Enfield, in Kevin and Perry.
I informed him he was now going straight to bed with no story, at which point, I was duly informed: "you can't just do that, you can't just leave me here with no story". This was a dilemma, do I go back on my threat, or do I call his bluff? I bid him goodnight, gave him a kiss and closed the door.
1. Say what you mean and mean what you say
We've all been there, threatening to take toys away when a child misbehaves. But how many times do you follow through? Kids are smart! If you keep making threats and then go back on it later the next time you make the threat they know that they don't actually have to behave, because, you'll give in at the end anyway. And believe me, kids are stubborn, they'll remember and they'll hold their ground!
2. Pick your battles
Everyone has days where they feel like all they've done is shout and tell their child off. It seems everything your kid does that day is just to annoy you. However, say you've tried to tell your child to tidy up, then you're telling them off for pulling their sibling's hair, then drawing on the walls, come tea time you're at the end of your tether and going off on one after they've left half their peas on their plate. Yeah, vegetables are important, but to save your sanity, pick your battles. Before you scold, think, is this really worth my stress levels hitting the roof even more? No! Just breathe and say "okay, thanks for trying" and walk away and get a cup of tea!
3. Be consistent
This is one you'll see on every list, but it's important! You can't tell your kid that they can't watch Horrid Henry because he's a bad example and then, at the end of a particularly hard day, just give in and let them watch it. Because then, when you say no the next time, your child doesn't understand the difference.
You need a routine to take when your child is naughty. This is personal and you should find what works for you (and stick to it!) but my own routine is to:
a) gently remind them that that's not how we behave
b) remind again in a harsher tone
c) obtain eye contact and remind again in an 'I mean business' tone
d) advise that if they do not stop then they will have a time out
e) send your child to your designated time out area. (We have a 'naughty chair', a rather comfy chair actually, but it's in the dining room so separated from the living room where he usually plays.)
5. Positive reinforcement
Think Pavlov's Dog. That dog heard that bell so many times he eventually knew that a treat was coming when the bell rang. When your child behaves well, reward them! They don't actually know they're behaving well unless you tell them. Give treats, praise them like crazy, then they know that in order to get more treats, they need to replicate that same good behaviour.