How we respond to our child’s behavior when he is little determines how the child will grow and what he will become later in life.
No one should ever discipline a child in anger. Too often in anger, parents use tactics they don’t want their child to copy. They’re rude, they yell, they use bad language, they put the child down and they make horrible threats. They forget that they are their child’s model. If we want our children to respect others, we also should respect the child. We must demonstrate the behavior we want them to imitate.
Besides wounding a child’s positive feelings about himself, spanking and yelling do not work.
Punishments like these leave the child with resentment and anger and he often will be unclear what he should have done. All he knows is that it hurts. He will try to avoid the hurt in the future by trying not to get caught; that will be the lesson he learns from spanking or yelling. The young child will be confused if he is hit by someone he loves and trusts and you will have taught him not to trust and to hurt others.
The behavior you modeled for him will be the behavior he takes into adolescence as he becomes an angry teen. Parents need to demonstrate to their child the behavior they want him to copy. When you react to your child’s behavior today, you need to think who that child will become tomorrow. A child who experiences understanding and respect is likely to treat others with understanding and respect.
This doesn’t mean you ignore bad behavior. It just means you control how you react to it. You talk about it; you don’t yell about it. You correct the behavior by explaining what the child has done wrong and give him a chance to improve his behavior. You may even end the discussion with a hug.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation. The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers, and grandparents. Reach Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 681-2250.