Parents spend so much time worrying about how to discipline their kids, that they are forgetting about a step that is just as crucial: what to do afterwards.
According to developmental psychologist Ashley Soderlund, we need to "empower them" to change their behavior.
"Children live in the here and now and young children, in particular, think in a 'fixed' mindset, meaning that they don't naturally assume things can or will change," Soderlund wrote in a blog post on Nurture and Thrive. "We have to teach them that they can change their behavior, that they can grow."
So, how to do it?
When your child does something wrong, she suggests a few simple steps to correct the behavior. If your kid grabbed a toy that another child was playing with, you should use your go-to disciplinary strategies — including correcting the behavior and offering alternative solutions.
But before you let them move on, you need to "empower them to change and diffuse their negative feelings" by saying the following four words:
"You'll remember next time."
Or, in this case, you could get more specific and say, "You'll remember next time to wait your turn." Soderlund maintains that the simple phrase communicates so much to children.
"It tells them that their failure today isn't a permanent failure that they can't change and it gives them something positive to focus on," she said. "'You'll remember next time to use your words.' It also helps them resolve their current feelings — I feel bad now, but next time I can do better — and gives them a sense of relief and a desire to try next time."
A mom herself, she uses the phrase all the time with her family and has found it is most effective with 2- and 3-year-olds.
"Little kids don't remember easily," she admitted. "Changing toddler behavior takes practice and opportunity and if you empower them along the way they will internalize those behaviors."