Parents these days face many different schools of thought when it comes to disciplining their kids, the majority of which would agree on this: When it comes to raising children, communication is key. Sometimes, though, we need to practice “tough love” and be stern with our children.
A study by British think-tank Demos involving 9,000 families found that "tough love" helped the parents raise more empathetic children with a marked ability to concentrate on and complete tasks. These kids who were disciplined by their parents -- using a firm tone, or calling for a timeout when needed -- developed strength of character as adults.
But when do we need to practice tough love, and when do we let things slide? Michele Alignay, registered psychologist, counselor, resource speaker, author and mom of two school-aged kids, gives some examples of those instances, and suggestions for what to do during each situation.
1. When they are rude, demanding, or acting entitled When they ask parents, caregivers or other family members to do something for them that they can already handle on their own.
Expert's advice: “Call their attention privately, or whisper softly to them while making eye contact, ‘I need you to change your tone, I know you can do better!'"
2. When they are whining instead of expressing themselves properly. Expert’s advice: “Tell your child that you will only talk to him when he is done crying and ready to talk properly. Point it out that whining is not the way to get mom's attention.”
3. When they are going overboard with previously agreed-upon rules Examples of this include asking/demanding for too many privileges beyond what is allowable, such as gadget time, extra servings of dessert/cookies, or constant bargaining to postpone bedtime.
Expert’s advice: “When my kids bargain with me, I remind them about what we have already agreed on, and make them realize the circumstances if I give in to their ‘bargains.’
“For example, I say, ‘If I give you extra 30 minutes of gadget time today, that will be deducted from your privileges the following day.’ I give what they want, but on certain conditions and parameters.”
4. When they are doing “non-negotiables” like hitting someone or calling names Expert’s advice: “Call their attention. I constantly remind my kids about our rules such as ‘no hurting,’ both physically and verbally.
“I also make them have a ‘cooling off’ time so they can think of what they have done, or they lose a fraction of playtime with siblings or friends if their behavior is unacceptable. I explain to them that this kind of behavior tells me they aren't ready yet to deal well with others.”
5. When they are too rowdy and “overstimulated,” such that they no longer listen Expert’s advice: “During such instances, I go to my child, kneel, hold her hand and tell her, ‘Stop. Listen to me now.’ And then I remove her from what may be causing that behavior.
“I also try to shift their attention to something more worthwhile and tell them they need to relax first. If they cooperate, great! If they have a meltdown, then I do what I usually do when they are whining (see number 2).”
Every parent knows that disciplining and teaching our children isn’t always easy. There may be times when we lose our temper and become too harsh, instead of being stern and loving.
When this happens, remember to seek your child’s forgiveness and explain that no matter how stern or austere you may become, your love for him or her is unfailing and unconditional.