As I was reading through some Circle of Moms conversations this week, I was struck by a great question posed by Amy K.: "How do I punish bad behavior without hurting feelings?” That’s a complicated question, and I’m hoping this article will help.
New Stages, New Behaviors
Did you know that your child shifts the way he or she looks at things after each developmental change?
When your daughter emerges from a developmental cycle she seems like a “new child.” She has a new set of skills and fresh eyes to see the world. She also seems to have a deep need to re-look at the rules and boundaries you thought were already mastered.
I know you’ve experienced it. One day you correct her and she accepts it like it’s nothing, and the next day she collapses into a crying puddle on the floor. You begin to realize that something has changed and the way you’re dealing with her is producing more tears than changes. You begin wondering what to do.
Some parents think, “Maybe I should get louder?” Or, “Maybe I should be firmer?” Some even think, “Maybe I should use more punishment?” Don’t get me wrong; there are probably some situations where that line of thinking may be valuable. Usually, however, that line of thinking only causes things to get emotionally more intense, instead of better.
Time for a Parenting Upgrade?
Just like a computer gets an upgrade when you install a new program, parents need to upgrade their parenting when their child gains a new perspective. Here are three well-known times when a child’s perspective changes.
- When a child moves from the terrific 2’s to being a three year-old, most parents wipe their brow and say, “I’m glad that’s over!” What they don’t realize is that 3 is a lot more complex!
- Most children are pretty compliant during the preschool years. It may not feel that way, but for the most part your child realizes that you’re the boss and what you say goes. And then comes the age of negotiating! Parents can begin to feel as if they’ve lost all control.
- Then there’s the moment when you see your child openly testing your boundaries and blatantly defying you. Most parents tend to rush toward a heavy punishment to stop that from ever happening again.
Would you treat all three scenarios the same? If so, consider a change of perspective to match your child’s new perspective—a parenting upgrade, if you will.
Adjusting Your Responses
I believe parenting methods need to include who your child is yet to become. Using the same parenting methods you used before your child morphed into a “new child” doesn’t allow that to happen. It makes her feel as if she’s still a “baby,” so she tends to act that way. She doesn’t begin taking responsibility or mastering the rules you’ve laid out for her.
A way to remedy that, or get a parenting upgrade, is to slowly begin letting your child experience the results of her choices, as long as the situation is completely safe. When she learns from the results of her choices, it can be far more of a teaching than your words could be. Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way saying not to use boundaries, rules and consequences. What I am offering is a blend of the two.
During a family meeting create a list of situations you deal with and assign a consequence to them. Then post the list on the refrigerator. When you think learning from a choice isn’t enough, add a consequence from the list. You can say, “Sweetie, you did (fill in the blank). What does it say will happen on our list? I love you and my job is to teach you, and I will never stop doing my job.”
As this is all unfolding you get to show your love, support, empathy. I think that’s a great upgrade for the whole family.
Sharon Silver is a parenting educator and the founder of Proactive Parenting. She's also the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.