First, a parent acknowledges a child’s feelings (“I can see you’re very mad”), addresses the behavior (“But when you hit, it hurts mom”), tells a child how to behave instead (“You can stomp your feet and say you’re mad”), and sets limits (“But no punching and kicking”).
As a crucial last step, child developmental psychologist Ashley Soderlund, who is also a mom to a preschooler, advises parents to always remember to end your discipline lesson with this: “You’ll remember next time.”
It’s a short but meaningful phrase. “That one simple phrase communicates so much to children. It tells them that their failure today isn’t a permanent failure, that they can change, and it gives them something positive to focus on,” says Soderlund.
“You’ll remember next time”
The phrase encourages good behavior in the long run and empowers your son or daughter. When you say those words, you are also telling him or her, “Yes, mom or dad knows you can do better.” It let hims know that he can learn from this mistake, and he will (hopefully) remember it the next time another frustrating situation arises.
“When children realize they have done something wrong they feel failure, and to them, it feels permanent,” adds Soderlund. “We have to teach them that they can change their behavior, that they can grow.” It is all part of cultivating a growth mindset starting from a young age, she explains.
Kids with a growth mindset know that failure is part of learning, and skills and smarts are gained through the effort and determination to be better – an attitude that’s important to have until adulthood.
The growth mindset is further reinforced when you notice your child's efforts when she remembers to behave appropriately the next time around. So, how do you do this? Professor of psychology at Stanford University Carol Dweck, who conducted the groundbreaking research on the growth mindset, says to praise specific actions, not overall behavior.
Instead of saying, “You’ve behaved really well when tito and tita were here.” Say, “I liked that you remembered to use po and opo when talking with grown-ups.” If your child points out his good behavior to you (“I remembered, Mama!”), mimic his level of enthusiasm – be just as excited as he is.
Soderlund reminds parents that no discipline tactic is guaranteed to work every time. There will be times when your child will repeat bad behavior even after you’ve done your best to teach him not to do so. “Little kids don’t remember easily. Changing toddler behavior takes practice and opportunity,” reassures Soderlund.
So don’t be so quick to label your little one as “makulit” or “matigas ang ulo.” Keep calm and know that discipline takes time and effort for both parent and child. You’ve got this, mom!