Guidelines For Disciplining Young Children
Here are some general guidelines I’ve found useful for disciplining young children. If you pass them on to families, and are open to discussion, you might learn something more about the family. If you model these behaviors, the message is even stronger than the written word. Maybe families will want to discuss what they see you doing. You might even get into a dialogue with them and expand your view. Everybody stands to gain from discussions about guidance.
- Communicate with children what you are doing and why. Don’t reason at length, but provide reasons. If you do this, children will eventually do their own reasoning.
- Check communication to see whether it is clear. If it is not, you may discover that you have ambiguous feelings about the situation. If you’ve called the children in for lunch, for example, and they aren’t coming in, maybe something is going on. Was breakfast late and nobody is really hungry, but you’re trying to keep to the schedule? Maybe the children are picking up on your ambiguity and that’s why they aren’t responding to you. An example I’ve dealt with as a parent educator is when children won’t go to bed at night. It doesn’t take a whole lot of discussion to realize that some parents who have been away all day have very ambiguous feelings about putting the children to bed. Children feel the ambiguity and are less likely to do as they are told than when the parent is very clear and certain.
- Trust children. Misbehavior often comes as a result of children being thwarted in having their needs met. Look closely at any pattern of misbehavior, and take the attitude that this behavior is trying to communicate something. Trust the child to know what he or she needs, even though on the surface the behavior may look just plain troublesome or contrary. Just because he or she seems to be “out to get you” doesn’t mean that there aren’t needs behind the behaviors.
- Trust yourself. You also have needs. You can only make good choices about guiding and disciplining children when your own needs are met. When your needs clash with children’s needs, strive to find a balance, so that no one’s needs are neglected. Convey the message to children that everyone’s needs are important—theirs and yours, too.
- Build good relationships. Whatever approach you take to discipline will be more effective if it comes from a loving place. Remember in Chapter how Nel Noddings’s (2002) approach to creating moral people is to focus on the caring relationship. Her ethic of care involves close, positive, caring relationships. When adults come from a place of genuine caring, guidance and discipine measures work much better than when they are used as mere techniques by an adult without any relationship with the child.
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