As George gets older, the topic of disciplining him keeps coming up more and more. Unfortunately, he’s developed a habit of randomly hitting other people, which of course I don’t want to continue, so I’ve had to do some research on how to discipline a child his age. It’s a slippery slope because one, you’re not sure they understand what’s going on and two, you don’t want to over or under react. So how do you discipline your child? I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic quite yet, but here are a few things I’ve learned so far.
Expect to have a situation arise
As much as we all hope our kids won’t be the jerk at the playground, no child is perfect. Which is why I think it’s important to be ready to handle an imperfect moment whenever it arises. When George starting hitting, I thought at first they were isolated incidents. But it started to become a clear pattern after a while and I realized I wasn’t sure how to react. If I could go back, I’d pay a little more attention to his behavior in certain situations early on so I could be more prepared to prevent and handle it all. Because honestly, it can feel a little overwhelming to be the parent of a kid who’s acting up. No to mention embarrassing - it’s the truth.
Prevent when possible
Now that I’ve had some time to kind of study George’s behavior, I feel very confident his hitting habit isn’t with malicious intent, but it’s more his attempt to engage. Whenever he does hit, once we tell him it’s wrong, he shows genuine remorse and hugs whoever he hurt. Knowing this, whenever we go to the park or will be around a lot of other people, I instantly start using words like “soft” or “gentle” to remind him that’s how he should engage with others. It kind of gets him in the right mindset and helps to prevent bad behavior.
We had to experiment a bit before finding the best way to discipline George when he hits. At first, we went with the classic time out, but he didn’t seem to understand the correlation between his hit and having to go sit by himself for 15 minutes. Plus, when he acts out at the park or in a public setting, I don’t like putting him on display. Instead, what we’ve found to be most effective is showing him how he should behave. I’ll take his arm and have him touch me and say “soft”. It seems to encourage him to behave more than time outs or me getting upset with him. Which brings me to my final tip...
Try not to overreact in the moment
I know this is easier said than done, but try to keep your cool. I’ve noticed that George will feed off the energy I’m giving off, so if I’m worked up, chances are he will be too. It’s hard to not feel defensive of your child while at the same time being angry at them for misbehaving, but I promise you’ll come out of the situation better if you keep your composure.
Disciplining your child is very personal and different approaches work for different families. More than anything, though, try to be patient. It’s as much a learning process for your child as it is for you.