Nifty vs. Thrifty

Friday, January 1, 2010

Disciplining Children using Creativity

My martial arts training has taught me to be flexible and forgiving in many situations. I have learned in my martial arts training that if you become stiff when an object hits you, you are more likely to sustain an injury. If you relax upon impact, a body part will be more forgiving and less likely to break or be damaged.

I know what you are thinking, "what's this have to do with disciplining my children?"

It's simple. Parents get into confrontations with their child and demand something to be exactly as they command. Well, children should obey, right? Yeah, well, that philosophy doesn't always work the way we anticipate! Allow me to explain...

A child's brain has not yet developed effective problem solving skills to handle many situations. They need a lot of direction and we can expect that there are times when they question authority. Questioning authority is a good thing (although it can drive us crazy!) By doing this, they develop their confidence and learn to navigate through their world.

Children should listen to their parents and be respectful, right? Yes, but there are times when YOU need to be creative in your problem solving skills to get the outcome you desire.

Here's an example. My friend tells a story about a time when he wanted to "run away" when he was a child. His mother said "OK, you can run away... just don't leave the yard!". My friend remembers going into the yard and then saying to himself, "what do I do now?" and returning to the house. We laugh about this story now, but in reality, his mother was very clever in the way that she disciplined using creativity.

Here's another example. If a child says they don't want to eat a veggie that's on their plate, you can say "OK, you don't have to eat ALL your peas, but you have to eat 4 bites since you are 4 years old." This changes the focus off the argument and onto fun by counting their spoonfuls.

Creativity is a very effective tool when disciplining your child. You may think that you do not have this skill, but it is a skill that anyone can acquire. Practice makes perfect. Sometimes, if you prepare to be a step ahead and plan for difficult situations, you can brainstorm ways to handle the situations before problems arise.

When you find yourself getting angry by your child's choices, take a deep breath and try to think outside of the box. Ask yourself if there is another route to get to your destination. You are a smart, capable adult that can handle the situation in a calm but assertive manor. Remember, the second you loose your patience, you've lost the war (which happens to all of us at times!) Try to use the skills I mentioned here to manage the situation in a different way to get the result you want.

Mastering the art of discipline is a challenging task. There ARE times when a child's behavior requires immediate consequences. However, insisting that your child obey EVERYTHING you say is unrealistic and will set you up for failure. By using creativity, you can set boundaries and yet still diffuse the situation and allow your child the freedom to learn on his or her own. Developing these skills will not only help you avoid disastrous situations but also build trust and respect between you and your child.

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