Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to cool down.
You told your child to pick up all his toys and get ready for bed. Five minutes later when you check in, the toy cars are still all over. You feel your blood start to boil. You're on the verge of losing it. Turn around, close your eyes, and breathe. Take a moment to collect yourself -- and your emotions. Michelle LaRowe, author of A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists, says, "Take a time-out. If you're worked up, you're only going to work up your child. Before addressing your child, take a deep breath and think through what you're going to say, calmly."
Address the Behavior
We all have good kids; sometimes their behavior just stinks.
When you're teaching your children to ride their bikes, do you punish them when they don't get it the first try? Of course not. You encourage them, support them, and give them guidance. Rex Forehand, Ph.D., author of Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Third Edition, with Nicholas Long, Ph.D., says that disciplining your children should be the same way. "When we think about teaching our children, we usually go about it in positive ways, that is except for behavior," Dr. Forehand says. "For some reason we think that punishment should be our teaching tool." It doesn't need to be. When your child hits another child during a playdate, it's easy to react with yelling, "Stop! Don't do that!" Instead, Dr. Forehand suggests focusing on addressing the specific behavior and taking the opportunity to patiently teach your child why hitting is wrong.
Dr. Harvey Karp's Discipline Strategies
Pediatrician, Parents advisor, and author of "The Happiest Toddler" shares the best ways to discipline your little one.
Mean Business Without Being Mean
Instead of yelling, use a firm, but soft, I-mean-business tone when giving behavior directions.
Direction that makes the most impact on a child is actually one that is stern and even somewhat gentle, says LaRowe. "When you speak in a calm but firm soft voice, children have to work to listen -- and they most always do. The calmer and softer you speak, the more impact your words will have," she says. Not only will your child most likely grasp your instructions faster, you won't have to lose your voice trying to convey it.
Help Your Child Explain Feelings
Before you lose your cool because your child has misbehaved, figure out what is causing the behavior.
One of the biggest reasons toddlers misbehave is they simply haven't learned an alternative approach to displaying their feelings. "Our goal as parents should be to teach our children how to effectively express themselves by validating their feelings without validating their behavior," LaRowe says. Next time Tommy pushes a friend who just knocked over his blocks, stray away from the tempting ridicule of yelling "No! Don't do that!" LaRowe suggests instead explaining why the action is bad. "Tommy, I understand you are mad that your friend knocked over your blocks. It's okay to be mad, but when you are mad you tell your friend 'I'm mad;' you don't push."
Have Clear Rules & Follow Through
Not carrying out your threats will result in them testing you -- and you getting angry.
"Jenna, please turn off the TV." Five minutes later, Jenna is still watching TV. "Jenna, I mean it, turn off the TV or you will sit in time-out." Five minutes later, Jenna is still watching TV. "Jenna, I mean it ..." Empty threats and nagging won't work on your children, and eventually they will call your bluff. And when they do, it's likely parents will find themselves frustrated and yelling. But this is easy to avoid. Have clear rules. When you state a consequence, follow through.
Give Praise for Okay Behavior
Parents praise their children for good behavior, and scold for the bad, but what about the in-between?
Children love getting attention from their parents, sometimes even if it's bad. "Parents tend to give attention to their child either by praising them for good behavior or punishing them for bad behavior. And at times a child will take either or," says Dr. Long, who advises to ignore your children when they are acting badly, such as whining to get attention. "If you yell at them, you are still giving them the interest they wanted, and therefore they will continue to use negative behavior to get a reaction from you," Dr. Long says. If you praise behavior, even when it is just okay, then your child will be more likely to repeat it because of the way you took notice.
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A Strong Bond Makes Discipline Easier
The stronger your relationship is with your child, the stronger your discipline will hold.
At this age your child wants to be close to you. Take advantage of it and reaffirm your bond with your child. Not only will it strengthen the relationship between parent and child, but your child will then have a greater respect for you. According to Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Third Edition, the closer you are to your child, the less likely your child is to act up, even though no child is perfect. "A child who has a strong relationship with a parent is more prone to accept the discipline offered by a parent," Dr. Long says.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Are you hurt when someone yells at you? Of course; so why wouldn't your child be?
"Our goal as parents should be to teach our children and to build them up, not to tear them down. When we yell at our children we risk damaging their self-esteem and sense of self-worth," LaRowe says. Consider how you'd feel if your boss yelled at you. You'd likely be embarrassed and hurt. LaRowe points out that often you don't have a chance to process what your boss is saying because of how it was said. The same goes for your child. You want to be able to teach him what is acceptable and what is not without making him feel shame or embarrassment.
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Good Eating & Sleeping Habits
Healthy children are the happiest children.
Parents underestimate the power of what a well-balanced diet and a good sleeping schedule can do for a child's behavior. If you think about it, what are two of the major underlying problems that cause toddlers to act up? Hunger and fatigue. Well-rested, well-nourished children who are on predictable schedules tend to have fewer behavioral issues. On the flip side, the better your sleeping and eating habits are as a parent, the more likely you are to keep your cool longer -- and catch yourself before you start yelling.
We're Not Perfect
No matter how hard we try, sometimes we will slip up and yell. And that's okay, as long as we know how to make it right.
Your child has been driving you up the wall all day. You have tried to keep your cool and follow all the steps, and yet you still feel your temper escalating. And then, one small mishap from your child, and you lose it. You raise your voice, and there's no taking it back now. Dr. Forehand and Dr. Long suggest talking to your children when you've calmed down after yelling. "It's important to explain that Mommy or Daddy didn't mean to raise their voice, and that they didn't mean to get mad," Dr. Forehand says. "Explain to them that it frustrates Mommy or Daddy when they don't listen, and ask them to do better, and that you will, too."
Copyright 2010 Meredith Corporation.