• A Parenting Expert's 3-Day Guide to a Better-Behaved Child
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  • Can't deal with your child's defiance anymore? Maybe you need a different approach. Dr. Laura Markham, a child psychologist and parenting expert, says you need to start by taking a break from berating yourself each time you lose your patience. We need to stop wallowing in guilt to do better by our children. 

    Yelling happens to the best of us. But, unlike our toddlers, we can control our emotions more. To do that, Dr. Markham shares this three-day guide that she entitled, "Your Child, Better Behaved in 3 days" on her website Aha! Parenting. Here are key takeaways along with insight from other parenting experts: 

    Day 1: Be more patient and kind (to yourself)
    Practice a kinder, more loving approach to parenting, says Dr. Markham. Start by treating yourself the same way. “Your goal today is to replenish your ability to be emotionally generous. Enthusiastically acknowledge everything you do right. Be your own cheerleader. When you miss your goal, offer yourself encouragement to get back on track.”

    Notice when you snap at your child, for example, make a conscious decision to do better for the rest of the day, and take a moment to feel happy when you do practice patience. No doubt, it can be difficult to stay cool and collected when faced with a matigas-ang-ulo child. But being patient and kind to yourself first will help you be patient and kind to your child as well. “You can only give your child what you have inside. Fill your own cup first!” says Dr. Markham.

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    Day 2: Change your approach
    How many times a day do you reprimand your child versus the number of times you encourage him? Today, instead of just giving attention to misbehavior, comment on good behavior. “Your goal today is to build connection with your child. Make sure he doesn't have to ‘act out’ to get your full attention,” said Dr. Markham. Don’t wait for the tantrum! 

    Dr. Marianne Neifert, a renowned pediatrician and an author of several parenting books, gives the same advice. “Change your focus from improving him to improving your relationship. When you dwell on the ways he's misbehaving, it just discourages both of you — you feel like a bad mom, and he feels as if he can't do anything right.” she writes in an article for Parenting.

    Compliment your child whenever you can, even for the small things. Say something like, “I like how you’re really gentle with your baby sister” or “I’m proud of you for saying please.” Giving praise not only strengthens the bond between parent and child, it also reinforces rules and limits.

    “Whether it's making the bed, helping set the table, or letting his sister play with his blocks, make sure you reinforce rule-following by celebrating your child's successes,” Larry J. Koenig, Ph.D., author of Smart Discipline, told Parents

    How do you know it’s working? “By the end of the day, you should see your child blossoming — warming up to you and trying to cooperate,” said Dr. Markham. 

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    Day 3: Connect before you correct
    When your child misbehaves, remember that you’re trying a different approach and practicing to be more patient and kind. Avoid snapping. When you lash out, it may only lead to more defiance, said Dr. Markham. “Remember to tell your child what they CAN do, not just what they can't.” 

    You can stop the behavior and reinforce the rules without raising your voice by connecting with your child. When your tot hits you, for example, you can follow this guide: 

    • acknowledge your child’s feelings (“I can see you’re very mad”)
    • address the behavior (“But when you hit, it hurts mom”)
    • tell your child how to behave instead (“You can stomp your feet and say you’re mad”)
    • sets limits (“But no punching and kicking”)

    This way, you set down clear rules in a firm but loving manner. Try to remind yourself that your child is not being difficult just to spite you. She needs you to show her how to behave through your actions and when you're consistent with rules and limits. Try to keep up these three steps every day. 

    You can also take inspiration from Shauna Harvey who has this genius trick to stop herself from yelling at her preschool-age son whom she describes as “testy.” It's called the “5 Hair Ties” technique. During the course of your day, every time you catch yourself snapping at your child, transfer one hair tie to your other wrist. The goal is to end the day where all your hair ties stay in place. If you slip up, you need to do five simple things each time you snap or lose your cool to reconnect with your little one. (Read more about this technique here.

    Good luck! 

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