Disciplining & Rewarding Children

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Discipline teaches children what is right and wrong; what they need to know and do; as well as the rules they need to follow.  Discipline doesn’t include harsh, critical and/or rigid rules.  It is a parenting method of creating guidelines for children.  Please refer to our previous blog post on “House Rules” for tips on establishing your expectations of children.  Alongside using house rules and your favorite alternative discipline methods for teaching children appropriate behavior, you may also employ rewards of various types.

Rewards are a pleasant consequence for behaving in an appropriate or desirable way.  They reinforce good behavior.  Rewards such as praise, nurturing touch and privileges tell children you appreciate their efforts.  There is no such thing as recognizing too much good in children, as long as the positive reinforcement is sincere.  Remember this rule to encourage children to behave:  What you pay attention to is what you’ll get more of.  If you pay more attention to the good things children do, then you will get more of the good things!

Praise is the single most powerful reward a child or anyone can receive.  Gentle hugs, back rubs and soft strokes of the child’s back are all nice, positive types of nurturing touch. When paired with praise – both rewards make a powerfully motivating combination.

Privileges serve as excellent rewards for children.  A privilege can be a special meal, a playdate, extra TV time, getting to stay up late, a few extra stories, or other behaviors/activities your children enjoy.

Some parents like to reward their children with various objects, which can include stickers to assorted toys.  Determine what your child likes and occasionally reward your child with an object.

Allowance is a useful type of reward for older children.  The goal behind paying children an allowance is not so much to incent behavior – but to teach them how to manage money.  Pay children small amounts of money weekly and encourage them to save and spend it wisely.  Children should be participating in the household chores long before they begin getting an allowance.

On our facebook page, we’ve been sharing a collection of positive reinforcement ideas as well as Chore charting and designation ideas.  Visit https://www.facebook.com/Chrysalis.House.Inc for regular postings on resources that can help you streamline your parenting approach.

These are some of our favorites recently shared on facebook:

The caught being good jar:   http://pinterest.com/pin/238901955205379549/

Reward your child with your time!  The Top 10 things children really want their parents to do with them: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/the-top-10-things-children-really-want-their-parents-to-do-with-them.html

And, several DIY Chore Chart Options:  http://www.todaysparent.com/chore-charts

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Does discipline need a firm hand?

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Experts think not… as was described by a recent article in the Washington Post.  First, let us clarify loud and clear that Chrysalis House, Inc. policy does NOT support the use of corporal punishment.  It just doesn’t have a place in parenting children who have adverse histories, especially involving previous abuse.

Physical punishment can give the dangerous and unfair message that “might makes right”, that it is permissible to hurt someone else, provided they are smaller and less powerful than you are. The child then might conclude that it is permissible to mistreat younger or smaller children. When he becomes an adult, he might feel less compassion for those less fortunate than he is, and fear those who are more powerful. This can hinder the establishment of meaningful relationships so essential to an emotionally fulfilling life.

Because children learn through parental modeling, physical punishment can deliver the message that hitting is an appropriate way to express feelings and to solve problems. If a child does not observe a parent solving problems in a creative and humane way, it therefore, can be difficult for him to learn to do this himself. For this reason, unskilled parenting often continues into the next generation.

Gentle instruction, supported by a strong foundation of love and respect, is a more effective way to bring about commendable behavior based on strong inner values, instead of superficially “good” behavior based only on fear.

Practicing a more peaceful parenting approach means that parents understand that behavior is never the problem from the child’s point of view. The child is behaving the way he is because there is something that he wants and needs – and doesn’t know any other way to get it other than the way he is presently behaving. When the child learns and knows a better, more responsible way to get what she needs and wants she will behave better, thus ending that particular problem of misbehavior.

Ah ha!  Parents, let’s embrace the idea to teach your child a better, more responsible behavior to help your child get what he wants. Once that is accomplished the child has what they want and the parent also has what they want.  Spanking doesn’t show the child how to develop self-control. Spanking may stop the child then and there, but there can be a cost emotionally and cognitively to a child, and over the long run, it doesn’t usually lead to the child learning not to repeat the behavior that resulted in the spanking in the first place. It can also lead to the child learning to behave because of fear, not because of respect.

It takes a long time for a child to learn how to control themselves. We hope that by age 5 there is a greater ability to sense that people other than themselves have needs and that they can stop themselves from doing things that will hurt somebody, not because they are afraid that they will get hurt themselves if they do the “wrong thing,” but because they care about the well-being of other people. These are the foundations of self-esteem and empathy, which we all want children to develop.

Spanking might damage your relationship and trust. Do you remember being hit as a child? Do you ever remember thinking afterward, “I’m so thankful my parent loves me enough to hit me?” Of course you didn’t!  Many experts agree that no one can “learn” when they’re afraid. It has been explained that it is biologically impossible to learn and implement higher-order thinking when fearful. The fear response triggers the fight or flight instinct and adrenaline and cortisol flood our bloodstreams and brains. If you want your child to learn something, it’s critical to reduce fear rather than increase it.  Spanking might also teach children to lie to avoid detection or to avoid you.

The Latin root of discipline means “to teach,” while the Latin root of punishment means, “to inflict pain.” When you think about punishment, it generally does not deter behavior unless the punisher is present. Punishment can teach children to avoid detection, by avoiding his or her parents.

We now know how to communicate in a way that actually teaches, rather than punishes. Children can learn best by mimicking their parents’ ability to control themselves, and parents can be models by using calm, firm and physically neutral discipline.

Please let your Chrysalis House, Inc. social worker know if you’re struggling with discipline challenges.  Resources and ideas will be supplied!