Author: Dr. Mandi Brock, CHKD's Hampton Roads Pediatrics
One of the biggest decisions parents will make after bringing home their new baby is what style of discipline they will use in raising their child. In many cases, the choice is made long before parenthood, drawn from the style of parenting that new mothers and fathers experienced when they were growing up.
But parenting is not always easy, even in the best circumstances. Choosing to use positive reinforcement will reduce tantrums and other disruptive behaviors and help children perform better in school and cope more effectively throughout their lives.
The word discipline, which comes from the Latin word that means to instruct, teach and impart knowledge, has often has been interpreted as punishment, which is a negative consequence for bad behavior. So how can we eliminate bad behavior if we fail to punish it?
What parents often fail to realize is that children often seek attention, positive or negative. If the only way to get attention is throwing a tantrum, and getting a negative reaction from a parent, then tantrums may become more common.
As parents, we teach our children how to behave not only by what we say, but by what we do. If a child has a parent who can show self-discipline by remaining calm and modeling positive skills, the child can learn to remain calm and think through situations themselves. Self-reliant children have learned that they are capable and that a parent can be counted on to offer support and guidance when needed.
We also provide the structure and routine and praise them for making positive choices. In providing structure, both parents need to agree on consequences so the child doesn't learn to "parent shop" for a better outcome.
Learning how to respond to bad behavior can require a lot of conscious effort for the parent. If a mother or father reacts to a child's misbehavior by yelling or arguing, the child recognizes that they have gotten the attention from the parent, and learns that yelling and arguing are appropriate ways to get your needs met. This is what we call negative reinforcement.
If a parent responds to a child's misbehavior in a calm manner and provides opportunities to figure out another way to handle a situation, the child learns to take responsibility. It is often difficult to ignore misbehavior, but by actively ignoring it, you are refusing to accept the undesired behavior. When a child does behave appropriately, even in the littlest ways, you acknowledge the good behavior that you wish to be repeated. Children learn to seek the positive reinforcement for good behavior instead of negative reinforcement for the bad. A child will learn that his or her needs are met when they behave in a manner acceptable to the parent.
When we teach our children how to think for themselves and make positive choices, rather than to do what their told, we actually give them tools to be successful in situations where they are pressured by peers, the media or adults who don't have their best interest in mind. Children are much more likely to make positive choices if they feel capable and supported.
One of the biggest decisions parents will make after bringing home their new baby is what style of discipline they will use in raising their child. In many cases, the choice is made long before parenthood, drawn from the style of parenting that new mothers and fathers experienced when they were growing up..
Source: Tidewater Parent Magazine