By: Dyan Eybergen
What do parents do when giving a time out to a toddler, grounding a misbehaved teenager or taking away his/her TV privileges or cell phone doesn't work? Here are 5 tips for applying creative discipline strategies that teach kids valuable life lessons AND correct misbehaviour:
- Don't insist on an apology: We need our children to take action when it comes to making amends and not think they just have to say the word "sorry" to get out of trouble. Teach them to take responsibility for their wrong-doing and have them go back and correct their mistakes by doing the right thing. From the toddler who needs to wipe down the wall he/she just coloured on with black crayon to the teenager who owes you back the time you sat up waiting for them when they were late for curfew; children of all ages need to learn how to self-correct in order to know what is the appropriate choice of action the next time.
- Use the situation at hand to your advantage: Think of logical and natural consequences when it comes to disciplinary measures. For example: the school aged child who leaves his/her bike in the driveway after repeatedly being asked to put it in the garage and it gets stolen – there is nothing else the parent needs to do in this situation – the bike is gone. Do not negate the learning by running out and purchasing another bike. The child goes without or saves up and buys a new one him/herself.
- Restitution through good deeds: A child who has misbehaved in a manner in which hurts someone else, either emotionally or physically, should be required to make amends through restitution. Using the opportunity to teach about empathy discuss with the child how his/her behaviour impacted the other person through feeling words and have the child come up with ways for how he/she can make that other person feel better. "Dad felt disrespected you blew off your curfew; more importantly he was worried about you". In this situation the child may be encouraged to stay home next Friday night instead of going out with friends and spend some quality time with dad.
- Owing back time: The 20 minutes it took a parent to drive a child to school who missed the bus, needs to be given back to the parent at the end of the day. The child will take on a duty that normally would be fulfilled by the parent: washing the dishes, doing a load of laundry, walking the dog etc.
- Writing the wrong: When children invariably say hurtful things to parents, siblings or friends have them write letters of empathy where they acknowledge how they made the other person feel. You can have them list "the top 5 things" they admire or appreciate about the other person. I've even had the experience where my eldest son wrote a poem characterizing the great qualities of his younger brother.
It is the responsibility of parents to teach children that behaviors and actions have consequences.Children who experience consequences that teach life lessons, learn that they have control over the outcome of their actions by exerting control over their behaviours. Parents who use natural and logical creative discipline measures are helping teach children valuable insights such as empathy and emotional regulation.