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Ask any parent what the hardest part of parenting is, and discipline will be at the top of the list.
However, many parents make the same errors – causing the role of caregiver to be more difficult and stressful than necessary. Here’s a look at five discipline mistakes commonly made by parents and their quick fixes.
1. KID BRAIN ≠ ADULT BRAIN
One mistake parents make is assuming their kids think the same way they do, which is not the case, says Fay Catlett Sady, L.C.S.W., M.P.H., a clinical social worker and therapist based in Placerville. She explains kids operate on emotion and what they want right now, while adult brains are about planning and thinking ahead.
SIMPLE SOLUTION: Sady says to know the difference and talk to your child in their “feel language” – “I know that’s how you feel, I know that’s what you want” – but as a parent, help them learn the consequences of their potential actions, such as not studying for a test.
Sometimes parents will be inconsistent in their discipline by allowing their mood or other factors to set a consequence, rather than what the actual behavior of the child was, says Dr. Tanda Almont, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder and director of the Monarch Center in Roseville.
SIMPLE SOLUTION: Parents should make a list of the top behavior problems they have with their child, along with agreed upon consequences. “The same behavior equals the same consequences; therefore, it’s predicable and consistent,” Dr. Almont says.
3. BE A PARENT, NOT A FRIEND
Another mistake Sady sees are parents focusing on being their child’s friend rather than their parent. And by focusing on a friendship rather than parenting, Sady says parents are more inclined to give in on rules because they want their child to like them.
SIMPLE SOLUTION: According to Sady, if you want your child to grow up as a happy and responsible adult, then they have to learn there are limits and rules in life. “Allowing kids to break rules will not help them become responsible adults,” she adds.
4. BE BALANCED
Dr. Almont says for effective discipline, you have to have a good balance between positive attention and appropriate discipline with clear consequences. “Positive attention is the glue that makes the discipline work,” she adds.
SIMPLE SOLUTION: Praise the admirable behaviors that tend to go unnoticed, Dr. Almont says. For example, if your child is sitting quietly in their chair, tell them how happy it makes you, “because if they’re not sitting quietly in their chair, you are going to say something,” she explains.
5. CHILD SEE, CHILD DO
Lastly, Sady says parents sometimes forget their children will learn by what they see their parents do. “Kids will handle problems like you do, they’ll handle anything like you do...they are mimicking and copying you, and what you do is what they will learn,” she explains.
SIMPLE SOLUTION: Instead of yelling, screaming and using aggression to get what you want from your kids, Sady says to use respect and firmness in a caring manner, and don’t be surprised when your kids respond in a similar manner to you. “It may take some time, but it will happen – kids behave the way they’re taught to,” she says.