Parenting can already be difficult, and it does not help that children always seem to know just how to push their parents’ buttons. According to psychologist Dr. Thomas W. Phelan there are three roles of a parent: 1.) Control Obnoxious Behavior, 2.) Encourage Positive Behavior, and 3.) Build relationships with your child. Today, we will discuss how to effectively discipline based on Dr. Phelan's research to tackle those problematic behaviors. In discipline, among the biggest mistakes parents make are talking too much and expressing too much emotion. Often times, a child can easily pick up on a parent’s frustration, giving the child power and control in the situation. The more a parent reacts to a child’s misbehavior, the more likely the child will continue to engage in the negative behavior. Furthermore, when a parent is feeling frustrated, the parent is likely to talk more. Some parents have the misconception that children are like little adults who can be rational. Parents who believe in this are more likely to try to use words and logic when dealing with young children. However, often times children know that their behavior is wrong, and therefore they do not need reasons and speeches on their behavior. Trying to lecture to a child can be unproductive. As such, it is crucial for parents to stick to a “No Talking and No Emotion” rule. When disciplining a child, parents need to be calm and consistent.
One of the first things parents must discuss before implementing a discipline plan is to agree on what the rewards and consequences might look like. For discipline to be effective, it is important for children to know the consequences ahead of time. Therefore, having a short conversation with your child about new rules can be beneficial. If children are older, they can be a part of the discussion regarding what behaviors may warrant a consequence.
As a parent, you may want to incorporate role playing various scenarios into your initial discipline conversation. This allows the child the opportunity to be a part of the process, and provides examples of rewards and consequences in a way children may better understand. Incorporating an art project may also be helpful in this discussion. One idea may be to have the child create a “Rules” list to hang up on the wall as a reminder for unacceptable behaviors in the home.
Parents may also discuss consequences with the child before a specific event. For example, if the parent does not have to count past a “2” (a parental technique discussed next week) for misbehavior while grocery shopping, the child may be rewarded with ice cream.
Parents should recognize that children may respond to new parenting changes in two ways. 1.) the child immediately cooperates, or 2.) the child begins to test the parent. Children who test their parents gain perceived control by providing parents with an ultimatum: Give me what I desire and my bad behavior will stop immediately. Children will test parents via threats, tempers, badgering, buttering-up parents, and physical tactics. It’s important for parents to keep cool - children may continue to jump from tactic to tactic, but be strong and be consistent!
Tune back to this blog next week as I discuss the specific parenting technique “1-2-3 Magic” based on the research of Thomas W. Phelan, PhD. And don’t forget, as a parent you are not alone! If you feel that you would like to begin therapy to discuss parenting or personal stressors, please contact us to set up an appointment. If you have any general questions about therapy, you can visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.