Good beginnings for Kaua‘i’s keiki

Say what you mean and mean what you say — discipline

Part II

This is a biweekly column presented by the Kaua‘i Good Beginnings Council, Public Awareness Committee. It will run every other week on Wednesday and will discuss issues relevant to the first five years of a child’s life.

This installment is the second of a two-part article.

To teach children discipline requires adults to guide them, and to help them learn what is acceptable behavior and what is not. You have done this by responding to your baby’s needs consistently and lovingly. A baby whose basic needs are met feels comfortable and calm. This is the beginning of the development of self-control.

• 18 to 24 months

Your child is starting to understand expectations and consequences. You can begin to teach your child proper behavior. You should try to:

Praise good behavior — teach through positive reinforcement;

Use “teachable moments” for small incidents and accidents, such as spilled milk; get your child to help in the clean-up;

Never use spanking or other physical punishment and limit your use of the word “No;”

Remember, “You are your child’s first teacher;” role model good behavior.

• 24 to 36 Months

Your child is beginning to realize that she/he is a person independent from you. She/he will want to exercise her/his free will, largely by opposing much of what you want or expect from her/him. His/her protests will probably include temper tantrums and heavy use of the word “NO.”

Tips for taming tantrums

Set limits and rules to help your child develop self-control. If you explain why the rule is important, children are more likely to develop self-control and try to comply.

Create consequences that relate to the behavior. For example, remove a child from the store if he misbehaves, but also remind him that he forgot to follow the rule.

Avoid problem-causing situations. If you know your child throws a fit when he’s hungry, remember to carry snacks.

Encourage and praise good behavior, give your child a hug and thank him for picking up his toys.

Follow routines for meals, bedtimes and other regular activities. Knowing what to expect helps your child to work with you.

• Older children/general tips

Say please and thank you

Saying please softens a request and when followed with a specific call to action it can get a child moving. “Thank you” adds an assumptive close. “Please take out the trash before dinner. Thank you.”

The added benefit here is that you are modeling the behavior you want your child to learn.

Be specific — When you say, “Clean your room,” your child hears, “Shove everything under the bed so I can’t see it.” In essence, he is doing as he was told. Prevent this miscommunication by being very clear, “Please put your clothes in the closet, toys in the toy-box, and books on the shelf. Thank you.”

Eye-to-eye — How often do you call to your child from another room and expect him to listen? Then follow up with, “Did you hear me?” Instead, take the time to get eye-to-eye with your child. Make a clear, specific request and then ask, “What did I say?” When your child tells you what you said it helps him remember. For example, your child is in the next room playing his computer game. Go to her/him, look him in the eye, and say, “John, please take out the trash before dinner. Now, what do you need to do?” When John says, “I need to take the trash out before dinner.” He has given himself clear instructions and is likely to follow through.

• Parent tips

When you demand something of your child that you cannot or choose not to enforce, you open yourself up to defiance/power struggle.

All families need firm, specific rules. Lack of rules forces you to make constant decisions and judgments and prevents your children from learning responsibilities.

Having a plan in advance is the best way to deal with tantrums. The more prepared you are the better you can handle the situation, and the easier it is to keep your own anger under control.

Information from this article was adapted and excerpted from “Born Learning, Your Child, 2005,” and “Teddy Bear Post.”

For more ideas, information and resources on how to understand, help and enrich your child’s development, call Anna Peters, Kaua‘i Good Beginnings coordinator at 632-2114, or Cathy Shanks of PATCH at 246-0622.

This article is provided by the Kaua‘i Good Beginnings Council, Public Awareness Committee comprised of Phyllis Kunimura, Kaua‘i Independent Daycare Services School; Cathy Shanks, PATCH; Nancy Golden, Nana’s House; Margaret Smith, Health Start; and Anna Peters.

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