Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
Carl Rogers, an American psychologist, is world renowned for his unique approach to understanding relationships and individual personalities. I would not attempt to restate his theories in a simple blog, but I suggest you spend some time looking into his work if you are interested in clinical studies to support the importance of unconditional love of parents, family, and friends in a child’s life.
As a parent, you might wonder how to let your child know that the behavior or choice he is making is not acceptable and yet you are not withdrawing your love or approval of him when you give correction. It seems that this is one of our toughest challenges — guiding our children without hurting them.
First of all, children want to know when they get it right just like we do. As I blogged last week, they thrive on very specific praise. If you praise specific actions, children are less likely to feel that you are always evaluating them. Specific praise lets them know exactly what you noticed that was great so they can choose to increase that activity if they enjoyed it.
The same theory holds true for unacceptable behavior. It is very important that you give very specific feedback on unacceptable behavior. Whether you are praising or giving redirection, you must establish in your child’s mind that you love and treasure her regardless! It is the ACTION that you are addressing and neither praise nor redirection affects your FEELING of love for her or her VALUE to you. This is CRITICAL to building a strong relationship with her.
1. Remember that the idea of discipline is to teach, redirect, and eventually lead the child to self-regulate and choose the acceptable behavior on his own. Every aspect of parenting is moving the child toward independence.
2. Always give a warning so that the child has a chance to make the adjustment on her own. Don’t ever belittle her for not knowing a rule that she should have known.
3. Be consistent without being angry. Once you give a warning, follow through and do your best to keep your anger at bay. Your child needs to see you discipline in love. He needs to see that you gave him a fair chance to obey, that he chose to disobey, and that the consequence now follows. It is just a fact in life. You still love him, and he is still valuable to you. When this is over, everything is still good. Reflection is always good if the child is old enough.
4. Be sure to ask yourself if you are contributing to the issue:
a. Don’t keep a child up late and then get frustrated if she has a difficult time with the schedule. This is a parent issue, not a child issue.
b. Watch for signs of distress with other children and move in before things escalate. Teach children how to use their words if you see frustrations building. It is often best to just redirect before a situation goes too far.
c. If there is tension in your home due to marital strife or changes in your life, your children feel it. Don’t take it out on them. They have a sixth sense and may just need extra cuddles. Monitor your own stress levels. If they are high, find a way to vent before you deal with your child.
d. If you need help dealing with your child, ASK. There is NO shame in asking for help.
5. Listen to your child, even before he is old enough to talk. This means watch the non-verbal cues he sends you. He will communicate with you and tell you what he needs and wants.
While it is a very important part of parenting to give our children real positive guidance, there are many times they help all of us avoid tears by offering positive guidance to us. Children are never too young to be heard and have an incredible way of communicating so honestly if we just listen.