I've always veered away from writing about the topic of preschool discipline, fearing that I might be opening a can of worms. There are such extremes in the ways that people believe that little ones should be trained that there is always bound to be someone who does not agree with some suggestion!
However, just this week two related things happened that have prompted me to tackle this topic:
- a mother of a young child asked for tips on child training on a social network I frequent
- I discovered some brief notes from an experienced mother at a homeschooling seminar I attended 15 years ago, which I remember were so useful to me at the time
So, I've decided to tackle this topic, in the hope that you will find something that will help you among the tips that follow.
Firstly, lets try to begin on the "same page".
The very word DISCIPLINE probably means different things to different people reading this article.
- To some, the first thought that comes to mind is punishment for disobedience,
- for others it means obtaining control by enforcing compliance,
- to others still it could mean training and instruction intended to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior or
- it could mean a state of order after training.
Can you see that from the first to the last description above there is a change in how positively or negatively the word is viewed?
I always thought of discipline as punishment, until I learned that an important part of discipline is TRAINING and INSTRUCTION. As parents, our goal should be to train and instruct our children in right living so that they will eventually become self-governed and SELF-DISCIPLINED.
If we are able to train and instruct our little children effectively, we will have less need to punish them.
This article will focus on tips to teach and train our children well, rather than on how to punish children!
First Forgive Your Parents
Many of us are influenced in how we discipline and train our own children by how we were parented. Some of us may follow a similar method to that of our parents, while others, reacting to negative parenting that they experienced, go to the opposite extremes and end up being either overly permissive or unnecessarily harsh and even abusive.
However you were parented, choose to forgive your parents for their mistakes and short-comings. Remember, all parents start out as amateurs!
Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
When you choose to forgive your parents, it doesn't make what they did right - no, the very reason you have to forgive them is because they did something WRONG, but forgiving them will set you free.
When we don't forgive, we remain bitter and we are guilty of making judgments and inner vows, which usually ensnare us and cause us to react negatively somehow and this affects our own parenting style and ultimately it affects our children negatively. Break the cycle now!
Take a moment and say, "I forgive.... [insert name] for ....[insert wrong against you]."
Tips for Effective Preschool Discipline
The tips that follow are intended to be positive things you can do to make your training and instruction of your little ones more effective.
- Remember that children are naturally childish, curious and foolish. Don't expect more of them than you should!
- Don't allow what other people may think to affect how you discipline your children. Be consistent whether at home, visiting or out shopping. Expect your children to make mistakes and don't be more embarrassed than you should by their childishness.
- You, the parents are ultimately responsible for training your children. Don't allow older siblings or other family members to take over your role. You may delegate responsibility at certain times, but you remain the parent.
- One of the most important lessons to teach our child is to OBEY PROMPTLY. While we need to be patient and long suffering sometimes, too often we allow our children to push boundaries and not obey us immediately.
I often tell my children that SLOW TO OBEY=DISOBEY. Even so, its an ongoing struggle and it takes discernment to judge whether a child is just finishing what she was doing before obeying or deliberately procrastinating or being outright rebellious.
- When giving a child an instruction
Don't discipline in anger. Anger has been described as temporary insanity and I am sure that almost all of us have experienced the regret of a word said in anger. Effective discipline requires a parent who is calm and self-controlled.
This does not mean that you may never get angry. No. The emotion of anger is like the red light on your car's dashboard. It warns you that something is wrong. However, you need to make a quick on the spot decision to react to the warning in a constructive rather than destructive way.
If you blow it, and say you yell at your child while venting your frustrations, all is not lost. Children can learn a lot from seeing how you calm yourself, recompose yourself and apologise for your bad behaviour.
They can learn so much about handling relationships, from our mistakes, if we are willing to acknowledge them openly.
- Make eye-contact with the child. Don't just shout an important instruction overhead. Get down on the child's level and make her look at you.
- Be specific. Never ask your child to do something that is overwhelming. For example, if you say, "Tidy up this mess," a small child might not know where to begin, but if you say, "Start by picking up the blocks or pick up 5 toys," then the child may be able to complete the task step-by-step in bite-size pieces!
Of course, this means you need to be near at hand, either helping or supervising. You can't just bark an instruction and expect to come back later and find a big job properly completed.
- Check that the child has not just heard, but also comprehended what you have asked (ask him to repeat it back to you, if necessary). The child should respond cheerfully. If not, then address the attitude problem first, before you can change the behaviour.
- The child must be quick to obey. If the task at hand is too big or too vague, don't be surprised if she gets side-tracked. Its a good idea to work alongside your child to help keep her on track. This gives you the opportunity to be a good role model and it is also a relationship-building opportunity.
Train them gently and kindly so that they learn to obey out of love and not out of fear. If you don't, you might get outwardly compliant children that are silently rebelling on the inside. Usually at about puberty this inner rebellion starts to erupt and by the teen years you might have a full-blown volcano on your hands!
Don't give children too many rules or too many instructions at once. Work on one or two issues at a time as consistently as you can and then add new areas for training.
When you correct your children, give them an opportunity to correct their wrong-doing or to get the task right. When my toddler scribbles on walls or furniture, which I have previously told him not to do, I make him help me clean it off. I scold him and tell him that its wrong and I also tell him again where he should scribble - on paper found in our box of scrap paper!
Avoid contests with your toddler. Don't give in to whining, sulking or tantrums. I often remind my little one, "I am the mom and I said NO. You have to obey me!"
Be consistent even when you are out in public. If a child knows that the rules are different when you are in front of other people, she will manipulate you to get what she wants, or worse still, she'll throw a tantrum to get you to give in quicker!
If your child throws tantrums, you need to practice more effective discipline at home, so that she knows they don't work!
Let your child experience the negative consequences of his misbehaviour so that he can learn from his mistakes that way. Often, that is punishment enough. You don't need to add on anymore.
For example, if I tell my son not to walk with his cup of juice and he doesn't obey and spills it, instead of inflicting some punishment on him, I would scold him, let him help me clean up the mess and then let him go without any juice as he wasted his portion.
Don't overuse any one form of punishment.
If you choose to spank your child, don't spank them for every misdemeanour.
If you use time out, don't send them to time out all the time. Children experience this as rejection and it is not good for them. Yes, you need to reject the bad behaviour, but not the child himself.
A more positive way to punish a child is to put them in 'time in', which means make them sit right by you for a period of time. That way they are not isolated and rejected but their freedom to continue playing is now limited for a time.
Books to Help with Preschool Discipline
The books listed below are a few of the best of many that I have read on parenting.
Each one of these has really helped me to grow in the way I parent my children, instead of just resorting to the 'default' pattern of
2. my reaction
..which can be a quite destructive and ineffective too!
We have to learn to understand our children and reach their hearts if we want to train them effectively.
Emphasising the Biblical principles of love and grace rather than punishment, they should be useful to readers of all faiths.
In the same way that we invest time and money in our career training, we should also invest in our own parenting education! The value and benefit to our families will be priceless.
More Pages Related to Preschool Discipline
Preschool Training... and 8 Goals for Preschool Training
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