Yelling, spanking and issuing empty threats are common discipline methods that parents want to avoid. But often we find ourselves resorting to these methods of discipline when kids push us to the limits of our patience.
Most parents discipline when they are angry. When children do things that make us mad, we want to relieve our hurt, often by hurting them, which is not be the best tool to teach them about self-control or help solve the problem. Plus, it leaves us feeling very guilty.
If we are supposed to be teaching them self-control, why can’t we display it? It’s far better to separate anger from discipline measures. We make better discipline decisions, and use more moderate, respectful, thoughtful tools.
A time-out is an example. A time-out is often used to cope with a parent’s anger and when the child doesn’t cooperate, the ensuing power struggle just adds to the parent anger. It’s better for the parent to remove herself from the situation and take a breather than to make another person do it.
How to Keep Control Without Losing Control of Your Emotions?
#1: Stress – A stressful life combined with the normal trials and tribulations of parenting can lead to angry outbursts. Try to limit unnecessary stress. One of the most common ones for parents of young children is getting out the door on time. Instead of yelling “Hurry up! We are going to be late!”, change your attitude to “That’s okay, take the time you need.” If you are late, will it really matter in five years from now?
#2: Take lots of “me” breaks – Take little breaks during the day to nurture yourself. Read the newspaper, treat yourself to a cup of tea, work on a craft project for five minutes. Nurturing yourself increases your patience.
#3: Knowledge – It is essential to read a book on child development. Knowing that children are naturally messy, noisy, self centered, excited, clumsy, etc. and that they are not just acting that way to get on your nerves on purpose, can really help reframe your anger.
Especially focus on learning about temperament and children’s developmental needs, and how some children and babies can’t help being more needy. It’s very normal that children go through “annoying” stages part of their development.
In the heat of the moment…
#1: Take a parent time-out – When your child does something that needs a disciplinary response, no one says that you must react immediately. Take the time to calm down, think, take a deep breath, and come up with a disciplinary solution that you will commit to and is reasonable, related, and respectful. Discuss it with your partner if you wish. Then get back to the kids about it.
You can always say “Mommy is so mad right now, I need to make a safe choice and lock myself in the bathroom and scream! I will get back to you on what we are going to do about this…” What terrific anger management skills you are modeling, instead of yelling, hitting, or forcing a time-out!
#2: Use self-talk to moderate those trigger thoughts that get your anger boiling – A handy list of coping thoughts (about normal child development) on your fridge might help to calm your anger, adapted from the book, “When Anger Hurts Your Kids”, by M. Mckay, P. Fanning, K. Paleg, and D. Landis.
• It’s just a stage. Kids have to go though these stages to develop.
• This is natural for his or her age.
• Don’t take it seriously. Keep a sense of humor.
• Pick your battles. Keep positive and save your ire for the really big stuff.
• This is just natural frustration for him/her…
• He/she is NOT really trying to stick it to me. It’s just how they are coping right now.
• He or she can’t help crying, feeling angry, interrupting, needing attention
• Just get through it. You can cope. You don’t have to get angry.
Separating your anger from discipline is a learned skill. With practice, it becomes easier and easier.
Want more tips on discipline without anger? Check out her book “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery”